June 10, 2010

Conference to explore role of families in fight against HIV/AIDS

Conference to explore role of families in fight against HIV/AIDS

More than 200 community health providers and researchers from across the Southeast will meet in Nashville next week to address HIV prevention and care at a conference hosted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Vanderbilt University.

From June 16-18, the NIMH Annual International Research Conference on the Role of Families in Preventing and Adapting to HIV/AIDS will focus on the importance of families in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the challenges to accessing HIV/AIDS care and services in rural areas.

“HIV has a devastating impact on all communities, but rural areas often lack important resources and access to treatment and support services that are available in more urban settings,” said conference co-chair Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health.

“This conference will engage both researchers and service providers in discussions to tackle issues of access, stigma, adherence and other obstacles to HIV prevention and treatment that are amplified in rural areas.”

The first day of the conference will feature speakers and topics of specific interest to health and HIV/AIDS service providers in the Southeast. Local experts include Susan Ford Wiltshire, Ph.D., chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Classical Studies and author of “Seasons of Grief and Grace: A Sister’s Story of AIDS,” and Kathy Wood-Dobbins, M.S.W., chief executive officer of the Tennessee Primary Care Association.

Skill-building workshops will provide participants with practical tools they can use in their work to support patients and families affected by HIV/AIDS in their communities. Topics include using parent-training programs to de-stigmatize HIV, how faith-based initiatives can provide HIV education and positive support for families and overcoming challenges for LGBT youth in rural areas.

Participants will also learn about the latest in HIV prevention and support models from top researchers at Columbia University, Duke University, Emory University, the University of Pittsburgh and Rutgers University, among others. Sessions will address helping families and caregivers adapt to the different stages of HIV/AIDS, stress and coping strategies, as well as supporting families as they prepare for issues associated with loss, bereavement, child custody and permanence planning.

The event’s co-chairs are Vermund and Velma Murry, Ph.D., Betts Chair in Education and Human Development at Peabody College.

The conference will be held at the Marriott-Vanderbilt at 2555 West End Ave. starting at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 16. Participants can register for free at www.familiesandhiv.com.