Savannah Native Receives Grant to Help Combat the Spread of AIDS

LaRon E. Nelson
LaRon E. Nelson

Grand Challenges Canada has awarded Bloomberg assistant professor LaRon E. Nelson a grant through the Canada Rising Star in Global Health initiative. He is one of only 19 recipients across Canada and will use the award to fund research to help prevent the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nelson, a Savannah, Georgia native, has dedicated his research career to the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmissible infections among socially marginalized groups within African and African Diaspora communities.

This award recognizes his commitment and determination to take on one of the toughest, most worrisome global health issues and to save lives. Nelson’s project is aimed at reducing HIV transmission in Ghana by using social networks to reach men most at risk for infection, yet least visible and among the most difficult to access and engage in HIV prevention services.

“I was excited to learn that we had been selected! We met with men in Ghana who described multi-level challenges to preventing sexually transmitted infections among men most-at-risk. For the longest time, the condom was the only available biomedical device with prevention efficacy; however, new biomedical advances are expanding our prevention tool kit,”says Nelson.

Through this study, Nelson and his team hope to discover the most culturally appropriate strategies for harnessing social/sexual networks to facilitate the uptake of behavioral and biomedical interventions, such as PrEP, within the context of a multi-level prevention strategy for MSM. It’s being developed in collaboration with Ghana’s public health officials and community.

The Canada Rising Star in Global Health program’s goal is to “support the development of exceptional emerging Canadian scientists who have the potential to be world leaders in global health.” Each of the 19 innovators selected from across the country receive a grant of $100,000. Canada is the first country in the world to adopt a grand challenges approach to foreign aid.

If the KAPPA model proves feasible, Nelson will be eligible for additional grant funding to scale-up the intervention in Ghana’s two largest cities: Accra and Kumasi. He would continue working closely with leaders in Ghana to implement the medical and public health policies necessary to evaluate KAPPA’s effectiveness for preventing HIV and its economic feasibility of being locally sustained once the study has concluded.

Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada’s Development Innovation Fund and part of a consortium with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

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