HPTN Black Caucus: Advancing the Black Community in HIV Prevention Research Trials

Since its early beginnings as part of the HPTN 061 (BROTHERS) study, the HPTN Black Caucus has provided ongoing leadership through consultations with HPTN studies that aim to enroll Black American populations. HPTN Black Caucus members have played a critical role in helping inform and increase cultural responsiveness, relevancy, and humility for clinical trials while supporting community integration into all relevant HPTN studies. The HPTN Black Caucus is a diverse group of scientists, advocates, and community experts committed to developing and implementing culturally competent behavioral and biomedical clinical trials for Black American populations.

HPTN Black Caucus
(L-R) Christopher Hucks-Ortiz, Jason Brock, Craig Hutchinson, Dr. Typhanye Dyer, Dr. Sheldon Fields, Dr. Mandy Hill, Dr. Darren Whitfield, and Dr. Donte Boyd

The roots of the Black Caucus originated in 2008 during the implementation of the HPTN 061 study protocol. The HPTN formed the HPTN 061 Black Caucus to provide racial and cultural responsiveness and technical assistance to the HPTN 061 protocol team to support the acceptability and success of the study among Black communities. Through a wide range of activities, the HPTN 061 Black Caucus ensured the study's design, implementation, analysis, and interpretation were rooted in the appropriate racial and cultural contexts and that the study was responsive to the needs of Black MSM communities.

“Black MSM have a disproportionate burden of HIV in the U.S. and are underrepresented in biomedical research, including HIV clinical trials, due to socio-structural, socio-cultural, and psychosocial factors,” said Craig Hutchinson, HPTN Black Caucus chair. “HPTN 061 was a great first step in incorporating the voices of Black MSM and a sustained engagement and commitment to addressing the substantial HIV-related health inequities within Black MSM communities.”

In the years since the HPTN 061 study concluded, the HPTN Black Caucus has consulted on and provided support for several other HPTN studies, including the HPTN 073HPTN 078HPTN 083HPTN 091HPTN 094, and HPTN 096.

“While the initial iteration of the HPTN Black Caucus focused specifically on HPTN 061, later formulations guided any research study enrolling or engaging Black MSM and transgender women," said Dr. Donte Boyd, HPTN Black Caucus co-chair, HPTN Domestic Scholar, and assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Social Work in Columbus, Ohio.

In 2011, the HPTN Black Caucus developed cultural responsiveness training for HPTN 073 clinical research site staff to help increase understanding of the perspectives of researchers, stakeholders, and participants from different backgrounds. Named “A Presence at the Table (APAT),” the training helped improve the inclusion of cultural, racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities in clinical trials. While APAT was initially developed to enhance rapport with Black MSM participants and community stakeholders, the program was expanded to include people of trans experience.

“Research findings suggest the community-focused research model of the HPTN Black Caucus could be utilized as a framework for other historically underrepresented communities,” said Dr. Sheldon D. Fields, HPTN Black Caucus member and associate dean for equity and inclusion in the Nese College of Nursing at Penn State University in State College, Pa. “In its work to embrace Black American communities, several representatives from the transgender community were identified to assist in training the HPTN 083 clinical research sites.”

The HPTN Black Caucus continues to provide ongoing leadership for HPTN studies with priority populations reflective of historically underrepresented communities. Next month, HPTN Black Caucus members will lead diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training for HPTN 096 peer supporters. The training will delve into various topics, including the profound impact of racism and stigma on clinical research and marginalized communities. The training will also explore historical trauma and microaggressions, shedding light on how good intentions can sometimes lead to unintended adverse outcomes due to conscious and unconscious biases.

To learn more about the history of the HPTN Black Caucus, click here.

To visit the HPTN Black Caucus webpage, click here.