Anna Hotton, PhD
Anna Hotton, PhD

Congratulations to Anna Hotton, PhD, for receiving her first R01 award, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse! With this new research project grant, Hotton will use computational modeling to examine the efficacy of structural intervention efforts to help improve HIV and substance use prevention for Black sexual and gender minorities (SGM). 

“Black sexual and gender minorities are disproportionately affected by HIV, and prevention efforts may be complicated by co-occurring substance use disorders,” said Hotton. “This study will address an important scientific gap by improving our understanding of the potential impact of structural interventions for HIV and substance use prevention among Black sexual and gender minorities.” 

Data suggests that socio-structural factors such as housing instability, incarceration, and unemployment may cause significant barriers to HIV prevention and care engagement for Black SGM. These factors also impact access to prevention and treatment for substance use disorders. Since interventions to address structural barriers to HIV and substance use treatment require many resources, pose logistical challenges, and are not well suited to evaluation using traditional study designs, particularly for people living in vulnerable communities who may be less mobile and less likely to engage in research in traditional settings, gaps remain in our understanding of which interventions or combinations of strategies would have the most impact in given contexts.  

Agent-based models (ABMs) are computational tools used to simulate the behaviors and interactions of individuals to understand emergent behavioral patterns and to evaluate the impact of interventions. ABMs can be used to investigate the mechanisms by which structural factors impact HIV transmission and evaluate interventions prior to rolling them out in the real world, which can lead to more efficient and focused intervention development and better utilization of public health resources.  

Building upon an existing ABM platform, Hotton and her research team will utilize multiple existing data sources to characterize relationships among socio-structural stressors, substance use, mental health, and HIV prevention and care engagement among Black SGM. They will then combine methods from epidemiology, ABM, and robust decision making (RDM) to understand the potential impact of structural interventions for reducing substance use, overdose, and HIV transmission. 

Integrated Framework for Modeling Social Determinants of HIV (INFORM-HIV).

“Once developed, our methods and models can be adapted to other geographic areas to reflect local prevention priorities and can serve as an example application of epidemiology, ABM, and RDM to advance HIV and substance use prevention science,” said Hotton. 

During the last several years, Hotton’s involvement with the TC CFAR and the Chicago area has helped her career development and grow her expertise in HIV biomedical research. She is a research associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago, director of biostatistics and computational modeling at the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination (CCHE), and co-leads the TC CFAR’s Biostatistics and Computational Resources Team.  

“I have had many collaborations with Third Coast CFAR members over the years that have contributed to the development of my research and provided preliminary data that helped set the groundwork for this project,” said Hotton. “The research project is very interdisciplinary, and I feel incredibly lucky to work with an excellent group of collaborators. I am also looking forward to opportunities for building new collaborations through this project.” 

Hotton’s co-investigators on this research project include Jonathan Ozik and Nicholson Collier of the University of Chicago/Argonne National Laboratory; John Schneider, Darnell Motley, and Harold Pollack of the University of Chicago; Robert Lempert, Raffaele Vardavas, and Pedro Nascimento de Lima of the RAND Corporation; and Aditya Khanna of Brown University.