UAlbany wins $1M to research HIV and substance abuse prevention in students

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A sheet of $100 bills (Nexstar, file)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Thursday, UAlbany announced winning a nearly $1 million grant to create a five-year comprehensive program aimed at the prevention of HIV infections and substance use disorders among its students.

The Achieving College Completion through its Engaged Support Services program “Project ACCESS” provides HIV prevention to students, particularly those from the LGBTQ+ community and racial-ethnic backgrounds, historically at higher risk for HIV and substance use disorders in the lack of health diverseness.

Compounded with this issue are young people between the ages of 16 and 25 years of age also at risk for substance use-related negative effects, says Dolores Cimini, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research. 

Young adults under age 24 comprise more than one-fifth of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States, says Cimini.

“Our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students are voicing the need for specialized services across areas that align with this grant,” said Cimini, who is leading the project with associate professor Jessica L. Martin, of UAlbany’s School of Education. “It is also responsive to the current focus on health disparities by the University at Albany and New York State,”

The training of students with experience with substance abuse disorders or HIV firsthand, as part of Project ACCESS, says Cimini will assist fellow students by linking them to specialized behavioral health and vital medical services.

Project ACCESS will hire a “prevention navigator” in support of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students to accessing behavioral and medical services within a timely and responsive manner, says Cimini that supports students with broader higher education opportunities in completing college, continuing their progress towards advanced study, and entry into the workforce.

“We believe that this is the first grant under this funding mechanism that is housed within a higher education institution,” said Martin. “Uniquely positioning UAlbany to advance innovation aimed to support both health and well-being and diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

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