woman smiling
Amber Sophus

A graduate student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Office of Public Health Studies (OPHS) has won a national research award to showcase her work at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting that will be held virtually in October.

Amber Sophus, one of 28 winners nationwide, will present her systematic review about interventions aimed at preventing HIV/AIDS in Black women in the U.S.

“In my dissertation research with Black women, I focus on identifying their barriers and facilitators toward using pre-exposure prophylaxis [PrEP],” Sophus said. PrEP medications for HIV-negative individuals are important because they could help reduce Black women’s risk of becoming infected with HIV through sex with an infected partner.

Sophus was nominated for the award by the UH chapter of Delta Omega Honor Society, a prominent public health honor society. She has completed her master of public health degree and is now working toward earning her PhD at OPHS.

“Amber’s research is timely and vital to helping reduce HIV disparities that severely impact Black women in the U.S., particularly in the south,” said Jason W. Mitchell, an associate professor of OPHS who is her primary mentor and chair of her dissertation committee. “Winning this award reflects Amber’s hard work…she deserves this important national recognition.”

Most interventions aimed to prevent new HIV infections in Black women have been conducted in the Southern U.S., focused on adults, and have centered on women’s behaviors. Few studies have included teens or older women, while none have included the use of PrEP in preventing new infections, and none have included women’s sex partners in the interventions.

“This research reveals opportunities to improve current and future HIV prevention interventions for Black women, such as including PrEP,” Sophus said. “Although strides have been made to prevent HIV infections in Black women, more work is needed.”