promoting the need to combine behavioral and biomedical
approaches to optimize HIV prevention. While applauding
biomedical innovations, the resolution emphasizes that stopping
the epidemic will require prevention approaches that integrate
both medical and behavioral strategies, says Eugene Farber, PhD,
professor at Emory University School of Medicine and a former
COPA member who helped draft the resolution.
“The resolution was significant not just for HIV health policy
but also in terms of where APA was moving. It still is in terms of
redefining psychology as a health profession and promoting how
our expertise in behavior can help to optimize overall health and
medical interventions,” he says. COPA also developed a 2013
APA resolution that emphasizes the importance of counseling
for people being tested for HIV, particularly as home HIV testing
grows. In addition, the committee collaborated with other APA
committees to organize symposia and journal publications
around the care and management of HIV through the aging
process. “As HIV treatment got better, people started living
longer, so now we have this new cohort of people over age 50
living with HIV,” Farber says.
Even though people with HIV are living longer, healthier
lives, COPA continues to push its prevention efforts.
“When we look at HIV today, I think there’s a misperception
that medical advances have taken care of the epidemic,” says
COPA Chair Matthew Skinta, PhD, director of the Palo Alto
University Sexual & Gender Identities Clinic. He notes, however,
that many of these biomedical approaches are only available in
communities with adequate health resources and access, where
neither patients nor providers feel stigmatized discussing these
options, and they require a high degree of adherence to be
In addition, Skinta says, despite advances in treatment, 33
states continue to impose criminal penalties on people who
know they have HIV and engage in behaviors such as sexual
activity without disclosing their HIV-positive status, even if they
take precautions to ensure that HIV is not transmitted.
“These laws have been applied without regard for the
science, often treating behaviors that are unlikely to transmit
the virus, or consensual and agreed-upon behavior between
adults, as a misdemeanor or a felony,” he says. They also often
end up increasing stigma and fear of those living with HIV. In
addition, states that criminalize unintentional exposure may be
reducing the likelihood that people will be tested and treated,
driving up HIV transmission and negative health outcomes.
“With the input and advice of a number of partners from
affected communities in HIV advocacy, COPA is working to
craft a new APA resolution in opposition to these practices,”
Skinta says. “Such resolutions provide a touchstone for
psychologists to quickly locate empirical data from within the
field and to respond within their own communities.” n
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