World Aids Day: U-M experts can comment

November 23, 2016


World AIDS Day is Thursday, Dec. 1. It was established in 1988 to raise awareness and to commemorate both those living with HIV and those who have died from HIV or AIDS.

U-M experts are available for interviews:

Rob Stephenson, professor of nursing and director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities, can talk about the development and testing of HIV prevention interventions for sexual minority groups.

“Gay men and other men who have sex with men are the only risk group in the U.S. experiencing an increase in HIV infections,” he said. “Over the past four decades of the epidemic, HIV has been messaged as driven by unsafe casual sex. However, recent studies show that (up to) two-thirds of new infections, in fact, come from main partners.”

The Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities is leading two ongoing projects to help men who have sex with men discuss their HIV status with their partners, Stephenson said.

“Whether they are both HIV-negative, both HIV-positive, or if they have different HIV statuses, all couples need a plan that they agree upon and can work together to implement,” he said. “By teaching couples communication skills, helping them to talk about HIV in their relationships, and providing them with access to information and resources that they can use together, these projects are allowing couples to work together to manage HIV risk.

Contact: 734-615-0149,

Akshay Sharma, assistant professor of nursing, is affiliated with the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities. He can discuss new approaches for increasing HIV testing among men who have sex with other men.

“Men who have sex with men in the United States remain disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic,” he said. “Testing for HIV is the gateway to accessing new biomedical prevention approaches such as pre-exposure prophylaxis among those who are negative, and treatment and support among those who are positive. However, HIV testing levels among members of this community are suboptimal, and a large proportion of individuals who are infected do not know their serostatus. Innovative strategies are urgently needed to reverse current trends.

“Depending upon their preferences or circumstances, men who are at risk can now choose from several HIV testing approaches. Traditional options include testing at medical facilities such as a physician’s office and individual voluntary counseling and testing offered at community-based organizations. More contemporary approaches include couples’ HIV testing and counseling and rapid home HIV self-testing. In order to achieve the recommended level of at least annual testing among all men who have sex with men, a combination of HIV testing modalities may be required.”

Contact: 734-647-0151,

James Moon, assistant professor of pharmacy, can talk about the latest developments in vaccine delivery methods for HIV.


David Caron, professor of French, is author of the book “The Nearness of Others: Searching for Tact and Contact in the Age of HIV.” He is a scholar of 20th- and 21st-century French literature and culture, with specific interests in queer studies and cultures of HIV/AIDS, as well as Holocaust studies.

“I believe that fear of contact is a defining characteristic of modern Western culture, and that this fear is codified through tact, a policing practice designed to deal with social discomfort and with the unsettling awareness of the boundaries separating norms and bodies,” he said. “But I also think that tact may be reclaimed to envision new forms of sociality. With particular emphasis on HIV disclosure, I examine the ways in which we may use tact to accept, rather than avoid, risky contact and to reappraise the cultural meanings of HIV/AIDS.”

Contact: 734-647-2665,

Nesha Haniff is a professor of Afroamerican and African studies. Her work has focused on empowerment pedagogies and marginalized populations which have been centered on HIV, gender and gay identities. She has developed several innovative educational modules on HIV/AIDS, violence and women’s reproductive health, including the Pedagogy of Action Program in South Africa and Southeast Michigan. In coordination with the Community Health Awareness Group and other regional organizations, Haniff has administered a training method that focuses on HIV prevention.

“In my work as a teacher, I ask myself how can I conscientize young men and women about social injustice (race and gender) and translate that consciousness into their transformation as activists,” she said. “And, how can a teacher who is a gender and HIV activist in South Africa, the Caribbean and the United States, use the nexus between the privileged students interested in these areas to engage in the process of empowering these communities to solve their problems?

“I have been working for more than 10 years in Detroit, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor—specifically in African-American communities, where the problem is pervasive. What I feel strongly about is that we need to be more engaged on the front lines of the problem in communities, empowering people to take responsibility for their own health.”

Contact: (734) 262-0066,

Gary Harper, professor of health behavior and health education and director of the Office of Undergraduate Education in the U-M School of Public Health, has conducted HIV-related research, community practice and policy work for more than 25 years. He is a founding member of the Adolescent Medicine Leadership Group within the National Institutes of Health’s Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions, and was formerly appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to the NIH Office on AIDS Research Advisory Board.

His research and community work focus on the HIV prevention and treatment needs of adolescents who experience varying degrees of oppression and marginalization, especially gay/bisexual male youth, transgender youth and youth of color, with a focus on giving voice to the social justice needs of young people.

“During these days of uncertainty following the election, it is important that we in public health who are focused on HIV and other health issues that disproportionately impact oppressed and marginalized populations stay focused and committed to the communities we serve, and continue to be advocates for those whose voices are often not heard,” he said.

Contact: 734-647-9778,

David Halperin, professor of English, specializes in the history and theory of homosexuality; classical studies and its relation to contemporary cultural history; gay men’s cultural practices and subjectivity; and HIV/AIDS. Recent publications include “The War on Sex,” “How To Be Gay” and “Gay Shame.”

“The topic of gay men’s sexual risk-taking has opened new perspectives into gay male subjectivity and occasioned a multitude of inquiries—by scientists, journalists, community leaders and activists—into what gay men want,” he said. “Nearly all of those inquiries have taken the form of psychological speculation about gay men’s motives for engaging in risky sex.”

“That speculation has led in turn to a revival of medical thinking about homosexuality—a style of reasoning that distinguishes ‘healthy’ from ‘unhealthy’ behavior, and thereby tends to smuggle into an ostensibly scientific analysis many stealth assumptions about good and bad sex, functional and dysfunctional subjectivity, proper and improper human subjects.”

Contact: 734-647-5884,