2011 Annual Report for the Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS

Committee Members and Staff

2012 Members

Perry Halkitis, PhD, Chair
Eugene Farber, PhD
Timothy Heckman, PhD
Velma McBride Murry, PhD
Monica Rivera Mindt, PhD
Scyatta Wallace, PhD
Amanda Houston Hamilton, DMH

Staff Liaison

John Anderson, PhD
Cherie Mitchell, MHS

Mission, Background & Committee Composition

The mission of the Committee on Psychology and AIDS (COPA) is to guide the development and implementation of the American Psychological Association’s organizational response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Members of COPA carry out this mission each year by attending two, face-to-face meetings held in conjunction with the spring and fall consolidated board and committee meetings and by participating in monthly, one-hour conference calls. Additionally, members of COPA regularly communicate with AIDS Office staff and each other by email and phone in order to plan and implement the committee’s various initiatives.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS (COPA) was established by the APA Council of Representatives for an initial three year period in 1990, reauthorized for an additional five years in 1993, reauthorized for an additional five years in 1998, reauthorized for an additional five years in 2003, and reauthorized for an additional five years in December 2008.

In 2011, COPA’s membership was diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation — two heterosexual, African-American women; one heterosexual, Caucasian woman; one Hispanic woman; one heterosexual Caucasian man; and one Caucasian, gay man.

Since its formation in August 1990, the membership of COPA has traditionally consisted of six demographically and professionally diverse psychologists with extensive HIV/AIDS experience as well as one non psychologist with community-based HIV/AIDS experience who is self identified as an HIV+ individual. One HIV+ member is currently on the Board.

In the fall of 2007, COPA proposed to its parent board, the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI), a revision of COPA membership that would enable community perspectives to be obtained from a variety of individuals who live openly with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The proposed revision of COPA membership was approved by BAPPI and APA governance staff in December 2008.

Instead of having just one non-psychologist member, COPA now identifies and involves different PLWHAs for different initiatives of COPA. This procedure enables COPA to identify individuals with specific expertise related to the specific topics scheduled for discussion. This change was needed because HIV/AIDS research and practice has become highly specialized as efforts are tailored to address distinct sub-populations with each sub-population having specific needs and issues for which there is a need for specialized expertise. It became untenable to expect that one person could fully or accurately reflect “the community perspective” on such a diverse array of matters. COPA has established ongoing relationships with the National Association of People Living with AIDS (NAPWA) and the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) for the purpose of recruiting PLWHAs for specific meetings and specific discussions. This process ensures more meaningful engagement of affected communities because those participating in specific discussions are chosen for their unique capacities to offer consultation about the topic at hand. Additionally, this approach enables COPA to strengthen its relationships with the two major, Washington-based, national organizations representing people living with HIV/AIDS. By forging this new way of relating to these national organizations, COPA has also strengthen its HIV/AIDS advocacy work which is more effective when done in collaboration with representatives from affected communities.

In the years to come, COPA intends to fill its seven formal positions with psychologists who are APA members. Participation of PLWHAs recruited through NAPWA and NMAC for their specific expertise on topics slated for discussion will occur on an ongoing basis.

Major Activities in 2011

During the past year, COPA performed a variety of consultative functions and also been active in various initiatives. Ongoing consultations and projects are briefly summarized below:

Policy and Advocacy Activities Related to HIV/AIDS

In collaboration with staff of the Public Interest Government Relations Office and the Office on AIDS, members articulated advocacy goals. Members also initiated meetings and developed action steps with the leadership of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) related to the integration of mental health and substance abuse assessment and treatment into HIV/AIDS prevention and care. COPA members provided expert opinions and recommendations for PI-GRO staff to deliver at two consultations with the Department of Health and Human Services regarding implementation of the National AIDS Strategy. Lastly, COPA members provided input and support for the following bills:

  • H.R. 1774 - Increasing Access to Voluntary Screening for HIV/AIDS and STIs Act of 2011. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). This bill would reduce financial barriers to getting tested, pay for the development and distribution of sex education materials that promote voluntary screenings, and it includes provisions for referrals to medical or mental health services at the time of screening. Finally, the monitoring of HIV/AIDS and STI screening trends, particularly among special populations, will allow for the tracking and evaluation of efforts to increase voluntary screening.

  • H.R. 1880 - Status Report on the 30th Anniversary of HIV/AIDS Act. Barbara Lee (D-CA). This bill would direct the President to transmit to Congress and make publicly available: (1) a report on the status of the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and (2) a report on the status of international progress towards achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.

  • H.R. 3053 Repeal HIV Discrimination Act – This bill will outline problems with existing laws, regulations and policies criminalizing HIV/AIDS transmission, including the threat of stigma and infringement on civil rights, incompatibility with current knowledge about HIV transmission routes, and potential undermining of efforts to promote voluntary screening. Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot met with Rep. Lee’s office in Washington, D.C. to discuss the pivotal role of psychology in the ongoing domestic and global response to the HIV epidemic and to express APA’s support for the Repeal HIV Act.

Resolution on Combining Biomedical and Behavioral Approaches to HIV Prevention

Members of COPA developed a resolution "Combining Biomedical and Behavioral Approaches to HIV Prevention." The resolution was placed on the cross-cutting agenda for the Fall 2011 Consolidated Committee meetings. Committees reviewed the draft resolution and provided both written and oral suggestions for modification. Those suggestions were incorporated into a revised draft which was approved by BAPPI and the Board of Directors recommended the Council of Representatives adopt.

The impetus for this resolution was directed by the fact despite the significant strides made with biomedical interventions, attention was being diverted from the behavioral components that are required to help this biomedical interventions succeed.

Psychology and AIDS Exchange Newsletter

Dr. Perry Halkitis, the current COPA chair, collaborated with members of the Committee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns (CLGBTC) to jointly develop a special issue of the Psychology and AIDS Exchange newsletter examining psychosocial and structural factors that predispose gay, bisexual, and other MSM to HIV health disparities. The newsletter will be released in Spring, 2012. Another issue of Psychology and AIDS Exchange, led by Dr. Mariana Cherner, will focus on neuropsychological aspects of HIV/AIDS and will be released later in the year.

Educational Pipeline for Researchers

The Office on AIDS received three years of funding support in 2008 for, Cyber Mentors: A Sustainable Model for Developing Minority HIV Researchers. This innovative research mentorship program is designed to prepare behavioral scientists for successful independent research careers in area of HIV/AIDS and health disparities. Members of COPA have provided ongoing consultation to program staff about all aspects of the program, they assumed primary responsibility for selecting three cohorts of mentees (15 mentees per cohort), and they provided expert guidance in developing funding proposals for continuation of the program.

Training of Psychologists

In October 2009, the APA Office on AIDS was awarded funding from the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to continue the HIV Office for Psychology Education (HOPE) Program for another five years. In October of 2011, additional funding was provided to expand its HIV/AIDS training efforts in the 12 metropolitan areas most impacted by HIV/AIDS. Members of COPA have assisted by providing ongoing consultation to program staff as they develop and pilot two workshops: (1) Short Term Evidence Based Interventions for People Living With or at High Risk for HIV; and, (2) The New AIDS 101: What Mental Health Providers Need to Know About Working with the Biomedical Aspects of HIV/AIDS.

COPA continues to work with the Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) Program, a national HIV prevention technical assistance program to support evidence-based HIV prevention practices in community-based organizations (CBOs) across the country. Members of COPA have provided ongoing consultation to program staff as they develop and pilot test a three-day workshop for front-line, CBO providers on integrating mental health and substance abuse assessment and treatment into HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

Black Entertainment Television

Since 1998, Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks has teamed up with the Kaiser Family Foundation on Rap It Up (RIU), a comprehensive and sustained media campaign to inform African-Americans about HIV/AIDS. The partnership includes targeted public service announcements (PSAs), long-form documentary and entertainment programming, free resources. The campaign also includes on-the-ground community events around the country.

The Office on AIDS and members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS explored the following potential areas of partnership and collaboration with BET to develop and implement evidence-based strategies of facilitating positive communication among African-American teens, and between African-American teens and their families, related to the topics of sex, sexual health, dating/sexual relationships, and HIV/AIDS. Potential collaborative projects and initiatives being explored include: 1) development and launch of a "Say Something Before you Do Something" Education Campaign through the BET’s Rap-It-Up (RIU) website and its associated Facebook and Twitter accounts; 2) mobilization and support of psychologists to participate as panel member experts at BET-sponsored teen forums across the country; 3) development of factsheets to be disseminated through BET’s RIU website, teen forums, and Black College Tour booths; and 4) development of a special broadcast of BET’s show106 & Park (teen audience) on mental health and HIV/AIDS to be aired on World AIDS Day.    

The APA Office on AIDS and COPA members have served as a resource to BET, as experts who were called upon to serve on BET teen forums around the country that address HIV/AIDS and prevention. A well-qualified psychologist (i.e., Chanda C. Graves, PhD, ABPP; Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Grady Health System, Pediatric Infectious Disease Program) was identified to participate in an RIU Teen Forum in Detroit on May 3, 2011.

Annual APA Convention

Members of COPA worked collaboratively with other PI committees to submit to BAPPI two symposia proposals for presentation at the 2012 APA Convention: (1) Women Under Siege: Disparities and Despair; and, (2) Immigration, Race, & Disparities: Health Care, Education, Employment.

Future Directions

Consistent with its mission, COPA is committed to the ongoing pursuit of the following objectives: (1) to educate psychologists and society at large on the various and unique roles psychology can contribute to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic; (2) to encourage and support psychologists in their efforts toward eliminating this epidemic through effective strategies of preventive education and intervention; (3) to stimulate behavioral research in a variety of areas associated with HIV prevention and mental health services for persons affected by HIVIAIDS; (4) to facilitate linkages between APA, behavioral researchers, medical researchers and community-based organizations for the purpose of coordinating and improving HIV-related research and mental health services; (5) to create educational resources about HIV/AIDS to APA members and the public; (6) to provide guidance and direction for APA HIV/AIDS advocacy activities at federal, state and local levels; and, (7) to serve as an oversight committee for APA Office an AIDS activities.