CRUSADA conducts Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) to address the growing problem of HIV/AIDS and substance use health disparities among Latino populations. The Center focuses on the social and cultural determinants of health that link HIV/AIDS and substance use, a priority area of HIV-related research at NIH (according to Fiscal Year 2010 Trans-NIH Plan [HRSA, 2010]). Specifically, CRUSADA investigates determinants impacting Latina women including socio-economic, language, and cultural, as well as health care barriers. The Center’s line of research is based on a conceptual framework influenced by the literature on social and cultural influences on health (e.g., Dean & Fenton, 2010; Freemont & Bird, 1999; House, 2001; Link & Phelan, 1995). This scientific paradigm emphasizes “fundamental social and cultural causes” of health diseases to be at the core of the growing HIV and substance abuse epidemics among U.S. Latinos and African Americans.
CRUSADA addresses one of the major objectives of the Healthy People 2020 initiative, which is to reduce the number of new AIDS cases among adolescents and adults who inject drugs (the majority of which are either of Latino or African American descent; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2009). This will be accomplished by increasing the number of substance abuse treatment facilities that provide services such as HIV/AIDS education, counseling, and support to Latino and African American clients. CRUSADA is the only NIMHD P-20 Center whose primary objective is to document the linkages between substance abuse and HIV risk behaviors exclusively among Latinos, and in particular Latina women, primarily of Caribbean and South and Central American descent in the nation (NIMHD, 2010).
The Center facilitates the transfer of culturally relevant information that can be utilized by CBOs in the development of evidence-based HIV and substance abuse prevention strategies among Latina women. Several current major reports and plans highlight the gap between our knowledge of effective treatments (i.e., theory and science) and the services being received by clients (i.e., practice) (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010; National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the U.S., 2010; National Institute on Drug Abuse and the International Aids Society, 2010). Taking into consideration that Latinas appear to be at heightened risk for alcohol and illicit drug use and contracting HIV, developing evidence based strategies to ameliorate these health disparities is essential (Lyles et al., 2007; CDC, 2010). As noted in the NIH Fiscal year 2010 Plan (p.79-87), it is imperative to sustain a commitment to HIV prevention by recognizing the interventions that have proven efficacious and scaling them up for widespread implementation, particularly among Latino and African American adolescents and young adults.
CRUSADA continues to enhance trust between researchers and the community by allowing for meaningful involvement of the community in the Center’s research, training, and community oriented activities.
The Center continues to produce a cadre of scientists conducting research on health disparities that focus on HIV and substance abuse among Latino populations. As fellow stakeholders, these scientists are likely to be highly motivated and have a significant, long-term interest in understanding the social determinants that influence the increased rates of HIV and substance abuse affecting Latino communities. By cultivating scientific interest in this area, the Center aspires to significantly enhance the development of effective culturally-relevant HIV and substance abuse prevention/treatment programs targeting Latinos.