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Research and Grant-Funded Projects

Research Projects

Members of The SPARK Center staff are actively engaged in both local and international research endeavors aimed at reducing the risk of HIV infection, enhancing children’s adaptation to HIV/AIDS, and finding the most effective prevention and intervention programs to curb the spread of the disease, in particular among ethnic minority groups. Current research projects include the following:

Cultural and Psychosocial Influences on HIV-Risk Behaviors among Haitians. (2005-present). Principal Investigator: Gemima St. Louis, Ph.D.
The goals of this study are to (1) conduct an in-depth assessment of the cultural and psychosocial variables that are associated with HIV-risk behaviors, and (2) gather pilot data that will inform a larger-scale study on effective strategies to reduce HIV-related risk behaviors among Haitian individuals. In-depth, face-to-face interviews are being conducted with Haitian men and women (ages 18+) in order to assess their susceptibility to HIV, knowledge about HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention, attitudes toward condom use, gender-role expectations, safe-sex negotiation skills, and risk-reduction behaviors. The findings from this study will shed light on the potential barriers to effective HIV prevention efforts and guide future research on ethnic minority and immigrant groups who are at high risk for HIV infection.
Living with HIV: Exploring the Experiences of Perinatally HIV-Infected Adolescents. (2005-2006). Investigators:  Jennifer M. Hamilton, M.A., & Gemima St. Louis, Ph.D.
Perinatally HIV-infected adolescents (ages 13-15) and their primary caregivers were interviewed and case studies of their coping process were constructed using qualitative and quantitative data from semi-structured interviews. Results are reported on perinatally HIV-infected adolescents’ HIV knowledge, psychological adjustment, self-competence and medication adherence and their guardians’ psychological adjustment, HIV knowledge and assistance with medication adherence in an effort to understand each adolescent’s process of coping with developmental challenges in the context of their HIV status. Findings revealed that medication adherence was most related to the developmental level of adolescents’ understanding of HIV (i.e., their HIV knowledge) and the direct support provided by their guardians. Adolescents whose guardians provided behavioral monitoring and consistent verbal prompts were generally more successful in achieving adherence. A major theme that emerged from the narratives about disclosure stories was the almost complete silence about HIV that characterizes interactions between guardians and adolescents. Implications for treatment and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Grant-Funded Projects

The HIV Prevention Project for Haitian Women. (2006-present). Project Director: Gemima St. Louis, Ph.D.
This community-based initiative focused on addressing the HIV prevention needs of immigrant Haitian women. The goals of the program are to adapt and implement the SISTA (Sisters Informing Sisters about Topics on AIDS) Project, and evaluate its effectiveness in reducing HIV-risk behaviors among program participants. The project is funded in part by the Massachusetts AIDS Partnership, the National AIDS Fund and the Elton John Foundation; and the MAC AIDS Fund.
HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Haitian Women. (2000-2007). Project Director: Gemima St. Louis, Ph.D.
In Collaboration with the Center for Community Health, Education & Research (CCHER) and The Metro Boston Haitian REACH 2010 Coalition, The SPARK Center has been providing culturally-oriented and gender-sensitive HIV prevention and education workshops to members of the Haitian community who reside in the Greater Boston Metropolitan area. This was a multi-site, statewide project funded by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Contact Us

Barbara Hughes
Program Coordinator / Director of Events
Call: 617.414.0502
Fax: 617.534.2057
Email: SPARK@bmc.org


Boston Medical Center
Department of Pediatrics
The SPARK Center
(Supporting Parents & Resilient Kids)
255 River Street
Mattapan, MA 02126


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