2013 Annual Report for the Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS

Committee Members and Staff

2013 Members

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

Staff Liaisons

David Martin, PhD
Cherie Mitchell, MHS

Mission, Background and Committee Composition

The mission of the Ad Hoc 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.

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. With its current authorization set to expire in February of 2014, a formal request for reauthorization of COPA was completed in 2013. This request was approved by COPA’s parent board, the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI) at its November 2013 meeting, and is pending final approval by the APA Board of Directors.

In 2013, COPA’s membership was diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation — two heterosexual, African-American women; one heterosexual, Hispanic woman; two heterosexual Caucasian men and one Caucasian, gay man.

From its formation in August 1990 until 2013, the membership of COPA consisted of six demographically- and professionally-diverse psychologists with extensive HIV/AIDS experience and one non psychologist with community-based HIV/AIDS experience who was self-identified as an HIV+ individual. Beginning in 2013, COPA membership was reduced to six members per term under the direction of BAPPI consistent with the standards for membership across APA Public interest committees. One HIV+ member is currently on the committee.

In the fall of 2007, COPA proposed to 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 strengthened 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 six 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 2013

During the past year, COPA performed a variety of consultative functions and also was 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, COPA members articulated advocacy goals for the committee. These included: (1) reauthorization of the Ryan White program, including mental health and substance abuse treatment services; (2) reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); (3) integration of mental health/substance abuse treatment with HIV/AIDS medical care and (4) lifting the ban on use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. COPA also provided expert assistance and input that was used to inform testimony submitted by APA to the Senate Committee on AIDS and Aging that convened in September of 2013.

Resolution on Counseling in HIV Testing Programs

Originally drafted by COPA in 2012, the resolution entitled Resolution on Counseling in HIV Testing Programs was placed on the cross-cutting agenda at the Spring 2013 APA Consolidated Meeting following review and comment by BAPPI. After subsequent revisions based on input and comments from Boards and Committees, the resolution was approved by the APA Board of Directors and is awaiting final approval by the APA Council of Representatives. The resolution draws attention to the importance of retaining HIV test counseling as a key element of expanded HIV testing efforts under the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in order to ensure that support, education, and active efforts at linkage to care remain core components of the HIV testing process.  

Psychology and AIDS Exchange Newsletter

The January 2013 issue of Psychology and AIDS Exchange was edited by former COPA member Mariana Cherner, PhD, and focuses on HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders, including current research and clinical knowledge in this area. Currently in development, the next issue of Psychology and AIDS Exchange will focus on HIV and aging, with current COPA member Timothy Heckman, PhD, serving as lead editor for the issue, which is slated for release early in February 2014.

Special Issue Publication Projects

Special Issue of Behavioral Medicine . Under the leadership of COPA members Perry Halkitis, PhD, (editor-in chief of Behavioral Medicine) and Heckman (associate editor of Behavioral Medicine ), several papers presented as part of a COPA-led BAPPI-sponsored symposium on health disparities and emerging biopsychosocial challenges of older adults will serve as the basis for a special issue of Behavioral Medicine focusing on the topic of AIDS and aging. This special issue, which includes articles by several COPA members, is scheduled to be published in mid-2014.

Special issue of the HIV Specialist . In coordination with the APA Office on AIDS, Current and former COPA members authored articles on the topic of HIV and mental health for a special issue of the HIV Specialist , the news magazine for the American Academy of HIV Medicine.  APA was invited to develop this special issue, which was published in December 2013.

Educational Pipeline for Researchers

The Office on AIDS received three years of funding support in 2008 for Cyber Mentors: A Sustainable Model for Training HIV/AIDS Researchers to Address to Health Disparities. This innovative research mentorship program is designed to prepare junior behavioral scientists for successful independent research careers in the area of HIV/AIDS and health disparities. Notice of the grant award from NIMH for a renewal application for this program was received in August of 2013, with COPA member (and incoming 2014 COPA chair), Velma McBride Murry, PhD, serving as co-principal investigator, and Tiffany Townsend, PhD, APA staff member serving as principal investigator of the grant. This program incorporates the following specific aims: (1) to maintain and strengthen the Cyber Mentor Program, an innovative mentorship program delivered by the APA that is national in its scope and uses web-based technologies to prepare mentees to become independent HIV/AIDS researchers; (2) to expand and sustain the network of volunteer senior mentors who support the selected mentees in developing successful independent research careers in the HIV/AIDS arena and (3) to recruit, train and support protégés who are committed to independent research careers focused on HIV/AIDS in ethnic minority communities. COPA provides ongoing consultation for this 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 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 affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2013, members of COPA assisted by providing ongoing consultation to HOPE program staff as they develop new programs.  

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 across the country. In 2013, COPA chair Eugene Farber, PhD, served in an advisory role to the BSSV and as a co-presenter for the development and piloting of a new training is entitled Re-envisioning the Patient-Provider Encounter: Views from Infectious Disease and Mental Health. This program was piloted as a CME workshop in Atlanta in December 2013, focusing on the application of evidence-based behavioral approaches to enhance the skill sets of HIV primary care providers in engaging and retaining their patients in medical care and promoting HIV treatment adherence.  A second pilot of this program will be held in February 2014, in Birmingham, Ala.

Black Entertainment Television

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

After laying the groundwork in 2011,  the Office on AIDS and COPA worked with APA to establish a formal Memorandum of Understanding between APA and BET that continued their partnership and collaboration to develop and implement evidence-based strategies for 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. In 2013, current COPA members Velma McBride Murry and Amanda Houston Hamilton (along with former COPA members) coordinated with the APA Office on AIDS to further develop this BET collaboration, including work on the following projects: (1) mobilization and support of psychologists to participate as panel member experts at BET-sponsored teen forums across the country; (2) development of a national survey to assess youth information sources for sexual health related topics, preferred information source and delivery modality; (3) conduct of youth focus groups which pilot tested the survey and centered on learning more about youth knowledge of HIV and sexual issues and informational sources; (4) launching of a national search for APA/BET Youth Advisory Board membership; and (5) establishment of a national youth advisory board to provide feedback to the APA/BET Network Partnership of ways to effectively disseminate HIV education and prevention messages to youth.

Annual APA Convention

In coordination with other Public Interest Directorate committees, COPA developed a proposal for a BAPPI-sponsored symposium entitled Health Disparities: Emerging Biopsychosocial Challenges of Older Adults that was presented at the 2013 APA Annual Convention. COPA members Monica Rivera-Mindt, PhD, and Perry Halkitis, PhD, (2012 COPA chair) were co-chairs for this symposium. A symposium proposal describing the APA partnership with BET entitled APA and BET Networks Partnership: Using Media as a Platform to Address HIV Disparities among Youth also was presented at the 2013 APA convention. Chaired by the Office on AIDS senior director, David Martin, PhD, (substituting for Public Interest Directorate executive director, Gwendolyn Keita, PhD), this symposium included a presentation by former COPA member (and 2011 COPA Chair) Scyatta Wallace, PhD. Current COPA member (and incoming COPA chair for 2014), McBride Murry, served as a discussant for this symposium. COPA also sponsored a mentoring panel that provided an opportunity for early career psychologists and junior investigators to engage in a dialogue with HIV behavioral researchers representing various career phases (early, mid-career, and senior). Finally, COPA awarded two awards (the Psychology and AIDS Emerging Leader Award and the Psychology and AIDS Distinguished Leader Award) in a special ceremony during the 2013 APA Annual Convention (see also discussion below).

In the fall of 2013, COPA members collaborated with three APA committees to develop a proposal for a symposium that has been accepted with BAPPI sponsorship for presentation at the 2014 APA Convention, entitled Risk and Resilience: Overcoming the Odds of Community Violence. This symposium, chaired by Laurie McCubbin, PhD, Chair-elect of the Committee on Children Youth and Families, includes a total of four presentations, one of which is a presentation by COPA member and incoming COPA chair for 2014, McBride Murry, entitled A risk-resilience family-based model for preventing youth violence in rural communities.

Community Day 2014

At the request of the Office on AIDS, COPA provided input in 2013 on the planning for an HIV Community Day which is slated to be held the day before the opening of the 2014 APA Annual Convention, Aug. 7-10, in Washington, D.C. The aim of Community Day is to provide a community-based forum for training and dialogue on the psychological and mental health aspects of HIV. The overarching theme for the community day presentations will focus on exploration of integrated care in responding to the HIV epidemic.

COPA Psychology and AIDS Leadership Awards

In 2013, COPA invited nominations for its Psychology and AIDS Leadership award. This award serves to demonstrate COPA's commitment to ensure that issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS are kept at the forefront of psychological research, education, training and practice. Awards are given in the categories of "emerging" and "distinguished" leaders in service provision, research, teaching/mentoring and/or policy/advocacy. While no nominations were received in the emerging leader category, a number of highly qualified nominees were received in the distinguished leader category. In light of this fact, COPA decided to name two Distinguished Leader award recipients: Lisa Bowleg, PhD, and Charles Hinkin, PhD.  These awards will formally be presented at the 2014 APA Annual Convention.

COPA Reauthorization

Because COPA’s current reauthorization as an ad hoc committee expires in February of 2014, committee members developed a new reauthorization request in 2013. This included the creation of a reauthorization document describing the activities of COPA over the five year period that has elapsed since the last COPA reauthorization and specifying specific activities to be pursued by COPA if reauthorized for an additional 5 years.  This COPA reauthorization request was reviewed and approved by BAPPI at the APA Fall 2013 Round 2 Consolidated Meeting and is pending final approval by the APA Board of Directors in its February 2014, meeting.  

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 on AIDS activities.