Introduction: Health departments are stewards of federal, state and/or city funds to design, target and implement HIV prevention and treatment interventions. Health department HIV program staff typically conduct disease control activities such as HIV screening and contact tracing, but fund external partners such as primary care providers, clinics and community-based organizations to implement a variety of HIV prevention and care interventions. Collaborations between these external partners and the health department HIV program are on-going and create a mutual understanding of their roles in, and contributions towards, impacting the local HIV epidemic, while health department collaborations with academic institutions tend to be more sporadic, are often limited in scope, and unidirectional in purpose. Developing a strong, on-going academic/public health partnership has the potential to enhance HIV prevention efforts to reduce HIV transmission.
Methods: We will describe the Northwestern NIDA-funded Center for Prevention Implementation Methodology (Ce-PIM) and the NIH-funded Third Coast Center for AIDS Research experience in working with the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health and community partners to identify ways in which research can help inform, design, and/or support prevention and treatment interventions to reduce new HIV infections. We will describe resources devoted to build this partnership and provide examples of the process to: 1) develop an understanding of respective areas of expertise, priorities, motivations, timeframes, and constraints; 2) increase researcher’s understanding of the local epidemic and contextual factors associated with HIV transmission and access to care; 3) increase researcher’s understanding of standard public health practice; 4) increase health department and community partner’s understanding of the differences as well as complementarity between research and implementation questions and methods; 5) describe the resources that each brings to the partnership, and 6) identify indicators of success as a result of the partnership.
Discussion: The overall goal of this academic/public health partnership is to conduct research that will catalyze innovative approaches in HIV prevention tailored to address state and local HIV epidemiological trends to increase population-based impact. In order to develop and maintain a successful partnership, it is important to create a shared vision and agenda that meets their respective priorities and goals.