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News January/February 2012
Volume 4
Issue 1

(This issue follows Volume 3, Issue 4.)

LinCS 2 Durham provides opportunities for members of Black communities in Durham, North Carolina and scientists in the region to learn and work together to find new ways to prevent HIV. Read on to find out what's happening.

Upcoming Events

You're invited!

If the LinCS 2 Durham project is news to you and you'd like to know more, we invite you to attend a meeting of the project's Collaborative Council. The details are below.

Let us know you're coming! Please get in touch with Randy Rogers, a public health education specialist for the Durham County Health Department and coordinator of the LinCS 2 Durham Collaborative Council:; (919) 560-7675.

What: Collaborative Council meeting
When: Monday, March 19
6 – 8 PM

Stanford L. Warren Branch, Meeting Room 1
Durham County Public Library
1201 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707
Get directions here.

What: Collaborative Council meeting
When: Monday, April 16
6 – 8 PM

Stanford L. Warren Branch, Meeting Room 1
Durham County Public Library
1201 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707
Get directions here.

Staff Profile: Eunice Okumu

Eunice Okumu

Eunice Okumu, research assistant (Photo: Alexandria Horne)

Among Kenya’s exports to the United States — coffee, tea, seafood and garments — Kenyan native Eunice Okumu must be the local favorite. Eunice is a research assistant with the LinCS 2 Durham project, and she’s the NC Central University’s coordinator for the project’s community survey, which seeks to understand the local Black community’s thoughts about HIV and HIV prevention research.

It’s a task that Eunice approaches with serious regard. “Knowing what the African-American community feels, their pride, and what they think about HIV is very important,” she says.

The work is a natural fit for Eunice, who has a background in HIV research and community surveys that she acquired back in Kenya. After attaining a degree in sociology from Kenya’s Moi University in 2004, Eunice worked on several projects for the Kenya Medical Research Institute, including HIV-related research.

“I was a research assistant on an HIV-incidence study of adolescents and young adults. The Kisumu Incidence Cohort Study (KICos) wanted to determine potential recruitment and retention strategies to prepare for future HIV trials of bio-medical interventions, including HIV vaccines” Eunice says.

The similarities to her current work are striking. “What we are doing in LinCS 2 Durham is closely related to what I was doing back in Kenya. We hope to learn about the risk of HIV in the African-American community so that we can do a clinical trial in the future,” she says.

Eunice has been involved in the LinCS 2 Durham survey since she joined the staff in January 2011. Aside from playing an instrumental role in the development of the survey questions in a computer-assisted format, Eunice screens and enrolls the participants and identifies those who are willing to participate in the project’s other activities. “We get a lot of people who are interested in future participation,” she says. “We have given the survey to 291 participants [as of February 29, 2012], and so far only five people did not want further involvement.”

Living in America and doing research on HIV has been especially rewarding for Eunice. “You know, coming from a different part of the world and doing the same kind of job, it’s interesting to see some similarities and just a few differences in people’s behavior and knowledge of HIV/AIDS. Each and every day is just like a learning experience for me. I love it, I love the job,” she says.

One significant difference between the two cultures is the relative acceptance of alternative sexual lifestyles. “Kenya, as an African country, has been opposed to homosexuality for a long time. People are not free to come out and actually say, ‘hey, I’m gay, I’m homosexual — this is who I am, so as you walk with me, please have that in mind,’” she says.

According to Eunice such cultural differences can have important consequences for HIV research. “[In Kenya], nobody knows who actually is a homosexual and so when you do research, it’s hard to work with them and help out with HIV prevention. But working with the Triangle population, people are so open about these kinds of relationships and for that reason I feel HIV prevention is going to be successful here.”

Eunice is also optimistic about the educational potential of the LinCS 2 Durham project. “I feel good about what [LinCS 2 Durham] is doing in the African-American community because we are giving the community a chance to know what is true about HIV,” she says.

“Survey participants are shocked when they learn about HIV/AIDS in Durham County. They don’t believe the statistic of HIV in the county and say, ‘no, this is just a white man’s way of trying to portray the black community,’” she says. “Or the participants say there is some drug or medicine that’s been proven successful for HIV treatment, but believe that it’s not available to the African-American community, and we tell them ‘no, that’s not true.’”

Recently returning from maternity leave after giving birth to a healthy baby boy on December 28, Eunice will continue educating the local community about HIV. “The literacy component of the study in the next few months will be very good in actually giving them the knowledge they need on HIV [prevention research].”

Message from the Collaborative Council Facilitator

Randy Rogers, Collaborative Council Facilitator

Randy Rogers, Collaborative Council Facilitator (Photo: Lisa Albert)

Greetings! I hope everyone is off to a happy, healthy and productive start this year. The CC will be celebrating its third year as an active community advisory board (CAB) for the LinCS 2 Durham study and the greater Durham community. This is a notable accomplishment because keeping the council alive with ongoing activities isn’t easy — the professional and personal commitments of the community participants have limited their level of engagement with the CC. This achievement would not have been possible without the cooperation of stakeholders in the community and the staff who are working to realize the aims of the study. Some of the highlights over the past year include the CC’s involvement in the community survey, their assistance with the development of the research literacy curriculum, and their guidance and direction in the development of volunteer compensation guidelines and the prospective NIH funding proposal.

These activities demonstrate LinCS 2 Durham’s adherence to the core principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR). The LinCS 2 Durham team values the contributions of all who are involved with the study. We have clearly accomplished a lot over the past couple of years in our quest to raise the level of awareness of HIV prevention technologies in Durham’s Black community. However, there is more work to be done, especially with respect to engaging more Black young adults in the study. The target advisory board (TAB) is off to a great start, thoughtfully planning and implementing ways to get this target group to the table. Stay tuned as we work together to turn this challenge into a positive outcome.

Randy Rogers serves as coordinator and facilitator of the LinCS 2 Durham Collaborative Council. He is a public health education specialist with the Division of Health Education at the Durham County Health Department.

Special Acknowledgement

Malika Roman Isler

Malika Roman Isler, LinCS 2 Durham co-investigator (Photo: Courtesy of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Congratulations to Malika Roman Isler, PhD, MPH, LinCS 2 Durham co-investigator, who was accepted into the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) scholars program for 2012-2013.

The scholarship is awarded to minority scientists, early in their careers, who wish to work with a mentor scientist in the Network to complete a research project based upon an existing domestic HIV research study in the HPTN. The program is funded through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH).

Dr. Roman Isler’s work with LinCS 2 Durham focuses on the development and implementation of a research literacy curriculum for HIV prevention technologies. She serves as the assistant director of the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute - Community Academic Resources for Engaged Scholarship Unit. She is also a research assistant professor in the Department of Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), School of Medicine and a faculty investigator with the UNC-CH Center for Genomics and Society.

We are proud of our colleague and we wish her the best in this new endeavor.

HIV and Black America in the News

World AIDS Day: President Obama Speaks
The theme for the 2011 World AIDS Day was “Getting to Zero” — denoting global efforts to achieve zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination. In a statement released by the White House, President Obama acknowledged the strides that have been made in the past 30 years, but cautioned that “the fight is not over — not by a long shot.” The President noted that infection rates are going down in other parts of the world, but not in the United States, where they’ve been holding steady for more than a decade.

“When new infections among young black gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter. When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups, and when black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more,” he said. The Obama administration also announced the allocation of $50 million for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment and care, including $15 million for the Ryan White Program and $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP). The ADAP waiting lists hold the names of more than 6,500 Americans living with HIV. The President called on state governments, drug companies and foundations “to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.”

President Obama speaking on World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day: Local Events
On December 1, the Partnership for a Healthy Durham sponsored an evening of HIV/AIDS activism, exhibits, local entertainment, testimonials, and refreshments. The event, which was free and open to the public, had a local theme: “It takes a village to fight HIV and AIDS.”

Be the Generation Bridge
In September 2011, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced the creation of “Be the Generation Bridge” (BTG Bridge) to promote the understanding of HIV prevention strategies — including microbicides, oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, and treatment as prevention. This short-term project is continuing and expanding the work of NIAID’s HIV Vaccine Research Education Initiative (NHVREI), which ended in September 2011.

In January, BTG Bridge identified 18 local and national organizations that will take part in the “BTG Bridge Partnership Project” to increase scientific literacy and participation in HIV prevention research in communities that have been most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The local partners include AIDS Alabama (Birmingham), Community Education Group (Washington, DC), Latin American Health Institute (Boston), Multicultural AIDS Coalition (Boston), San Francisco AIDS Foundation (San Francisco), and SisterLove (Atlanta). The national organizations include the Black AIDS Institute, National Minority AIDS Council & National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition, and REACH LA.

The BTG Bridge is a collaboration between the HIV/AIDS Network Coordination (HANC)/Legacy Project and the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), which is coordinated by FHI 360. The Legacy Project and HPTN have considerable experience working with communities affected by HIV, and their links to NIAID’s HIV/AIDS clinical trials will offer further expertise and opportunity. The NIAID is currently pursuing long-term options for these important efforts.

CDC Launches Campaign for Testing Black Men
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a nationwide awareness campaign, called Testing Makes Us Stronger. The goal is to increase HIV testing rates among black men who are gay or bisexual — among the most-affected groups in the United States. The CDC collaborated with leaders of the gay and bisexual community, physicians and other experts to develop the campaign, which strives to raise awareness, improve access, and increase the number of gay and bisexual black men who know their HIV status. Research shows that black gay and bisexual men do not engage in riskier behaviors than other gay men, but they have a higher risk of acquiring HIV because of the high prevalence of the virus in many black and gay communities.

Testing Makes Us Stronger is the latest effort of Act Against AIDS, CDC’s umbrella campaign to fight complacency about HIV nationwide. Other Act Against AIDS campaigns include those that focus on African-American women, African-American youth, health care providers and the general public.

Real Talk!

Be a part of the LinCS 2 Durham project
Join the conversation about ways to prevent the spread of HIV in Durham's Black communities. Please get in touch with Natalie Eley, the LinCS 2 Durham study coordinator, to request information about the project and find out how to participate.

You're also invited to share your knowledge with the LinCS 2 Durham project team. Tell us what you think about this effort. If you come across something interesting in the news related to HIV, send it to us. And let us know about local events that would be good opportunities to spread the word about LinCS 2 Durham. We thank you for your interest and help!

To reach Natalie, e-mail her at Or get in touch with Randy Rogers:; (919) 560-7675.

Join us online
Become a Facebook fan of LinCS 2 Durham! You can also follow us on Twitter. The LinCS 2 Durham Web site (where you can learn about the project's background, news, and events and find links to related resources) is here. The Collaborative Council's Web site (minutes of meetings, photo gallery, and a blog) is here.

Contribute to the LinCS 2 Durham newsletter
Our purpose with this newsletter is to keep you informed about the project's many activities and accomplishments. The newsletter is also a forum for information that isn't part of the project but related to it:

  • Articles from the news
  • Community events with an HIV message
  • Stories of the impact of HIV on you and your family, friends, and neighbors
  • Suggestions to improve support for people living with HIV and AIDS and their caregivers
  • Your ideas about ways to stop the spread of HIV in Durham

You deserve credit for your contributions to the newsletter. However, if you prefer to contribute confidentially, just let us know. In that case, we won't identify you as the source and we'll guard your anonymity.

The LinCS 2 Durham newsletter is a work in progress. We'd like to know what you think of it, so we can make it better.

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