Past Research: Professor Wilson’s research on HIV risk and prevention among ethnic and sexual minority populations in the U.S. has explored the roles of social networks, discrimination, and substance use in predicting risk behavior among ethnic minority men who have sex with men (MSM). Wilson’s pre-dissertation publications include qualitative and quantitative studies, published in AIDS Education & Prevention, linking anti-Asian discrimination in the gay community to high levels of sexual risk-taking. Building on this interest in the social and situational contexts linked to HIV risk, Wilson’s dissertation examined how drug use and other factors affect sexual risk-taking among Latino gay men. The dissertation’s conceptual and methodological rigor was recognized by the American Psychological Association, Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs, which awarded it the Jeffery S. Tanaka Dissertation Award. As a postdoctoral fellow at the NIMH-funded Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) in the Yale University School of Medicine, Wilson participated in the development, implementation and data analysis of two randomized controlled trials of coping interventions for persons living with HIV/AIDS. Wilson has also developed strong collaborative research relationships with several New York City-based community organizations including Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, and the New York State Black Gay Network.
Present Research: Since joining the SMS faculty, Wilson has further developed his research on health and sexuality among ethnic minority MSM. Wilson has pilot funding from competitive grant programs at CIRA and Columbia University to conduct a longitudinal, internet-based “diary” study examining substance use, sexual behavior, and health in a multi-ethnic convenience sample of 150 HIV-positive MSM. The study employs brief, weekly, web-based, structured sex diary assessments that obtain specific details about sexual encounters and other information about behaviors and experiences over the prior week, eliciting data that will allow for a greater ability to understand potential features of high-risk sexual situations. Wilson is conducting research on religious responses to HIV among African-American and Afro-Caribbean MSM in NYC. With a minority supplement to the grant “Religious Responses to HIV/AIDS in Brazil” (PI: Richard Parker), Wilson’s project uses institutional ethnography to examine the role of MSM in elaborating Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Afro-Caribbean (i.e., Santería & Candomblé) institutional responses to local HIV/AIDS epidemics in NYC. Through interviews with religious leaders and followers, and attendance at religious services, Wilson is exploring prevention- and treatment-related responses, and ideological beliefs related to sexuality, masculinity, and health and illness, in order to identify religion-based barriers to—and facilitators of—effective HIV prevention interventions. Finally, Wilson is continues to engage in community-focused research, collaboration, and intervention, using a community-based survey and GIS mapping to evaluate a social marketing campaign aimed at reducing stigma toward gay men in predominantly African-American communities and neighborhoods in NYC and partnering with the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors in documenting public health responses to the HIV epidemic in state and local health departments across the U.S.
Future Research: In his future work, Wilson plans to continue to explore situational factors affecting risk behavior among ethnic minority MSM, further developing his quantitative and qualitative methodological skills in order to better understand the institutional, social and situational factors that create health disparities. Wilson has recently applied for a CDC U01 grant to explore the proximal situational and distal situational factors linked to HIV-risk behavior among young Black MSM. The proposed work employs life history interview and structured web-based diary methods to explore how early childhood factors (i.e., experiences of poverty, substance use, and abuse) and situational factors involved in sexual encounters (i.e., sex partner characteristics, substance use before or during sex, communication with sex partner, etc.) are linked to risk-taking behavior. Research projects planned with other researchers in and outside of Columbia University include continuing to focus on domestic ethnic and sexual minority populations at risk for poor health outcomes, looking at mental health outcomes, and exploring the determinants of health-seeking and health-promoting behaviors in high-risk populations.
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