DGHI Postdoctoral Fellow Eve Puffer has been awarded a fellowship from the International Clinical Research Fellows (ICRF) Program of the National Institute of Mental Health and Fogarty International Center to continue her research on mental health and HIV in Kenya.
Puffer will spend one year in Muhuru Bay, Kenya to continue development and implementation of a tailored program to improve the mental health and family factors related to HIV risk among youth. Through her postdoctoral research at DGHI, she found a strong relationship between community and sexual risk behaviors among youth in the remote community, where HIV/AIDS prevalence is high.
Puffer began small-scale pilot testing of the family-based intervention this spring, which is entitled READY (Resilience, Education, And skill Development for Youth and families). During her fellowship, she plans to complete its development and conduct a small, randomized controlled trial.
The goal of Puffer’s research will be to improve communication within families in ways that will help caregivers support youth in more positive ways, improve their ability to monitor youths’ behavior, and deliver youth consistent and clear messages related to sexual development and HIV. The program also aims improve their emotional coping and problem-solving skills so young adults can make safer choices related to their sexual behavior.
“I am looking forward to the fellowship year, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue my work in Muhuru,” said Puffer. “I am also excited that the community of Muhuru seems ready to participate in new approaches to HIV prevention. The community’s positive response to the READY intervention motivated me to continue with an efficacy trial, and this fellowship gives me the chance to do that.”
Puffer will be working in churches where families most often gather, as well as work with church leaders on how to best support families as they learn to communicate more effectively about issues related to mental health and HIV. In addition to the study, Puffer will receive further clinical research training with the Africa Mental Health Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya.
The fellowship is a partnership between The National Institute of Mental Health and Fogarty International Center and is offered through the Vanderbilt University Institute for Global Health. Puffer will continue to remain affiliated with DGHI as a postdoctoral fellow and will be mentored by DGHI affiliate Kathleen Sikkema and DGHI member Sherryl Broverman.