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Faculty Research Spotlight: Dr. Joanna Barreras

Published November 23, 2021

Joanna BarrerasDr. Joanna Barreras is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at California State University, Long Beach, and the Associate Director of Research and Evaluation at Bienestar Human Services, Inc (one of Los Angeles County’s largest LGBT HIV services community-based organizations serving primarily Latinx adults). Her scholarly work focuses on addressing comorbidities and disparities linked to HIV among Latinx—as health inequities continue to affect Latinx communities. Specifically, she aims to develop and test culturally responsive interventions to improve health and health care service utilization among vulnerable populations.  

It is important to use culturally appropriate language to meet the diverse needs of Latinx when relaying the most up-to-date HIV prevention information, as Latinx continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic. To investigate ways to communicate HIV prevention information to Latinx sexual minority men and Latina transgender women, Dr. Barreras served as Co-Investigator on an R34-funded study exploring a novel mobile-technology-based intervention using incentives to disseminate HIV prevention information. As part of this study, an HIV prevention intervention using text messages informed by behavioral economics to increase the frequency of HIV testing was developed and tested. The intervention focused on HIV prevention knowledge gaps, HIV testing, and the use of culturally sensitive messaging of HIV prevention (e.g., PrEP). The aforementioned study ended in 2019 and in 2020, as Co-Investigator, supplemental funding was secured to explore the stressors faced by Latinx sexual minority men and Latina transgender women during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on wellbeing.

Her current work has focused on addressing coping responses to stigma and discrimination experiences and HIV prevention and care. With her mental health training and professional experience, she has served as a Co-Investigator on an R34-funded study that focused on improving HIV care outcomes among HIV-positive Latinx sexual minority men using a developed 8-session group cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)intervention to address adaptive coping responses to stigma and discrimination experiences. This study served as the basis for an R01 grant that was recently awarded to test the effectiveness of the intervention in a fully-powered randomized control trial.

Most recently she was awarded the Centers for AIDS Research (CFAR) Adelante Program award, funded by the NIH/NIMHD and administered through two CFARs: District of Columbia and Emory University, which aims to promote the mentored development of early-career investigators who focus on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care in Latinx communities. Specifically, Dr. Barreras and her team proposed to develop a culturally congruent intervention that addresses coping with intersectional stigma and discrimination among Latina transgender women and improve HIV-Related prevention and treatment behaviors. Her project builds on her existing work addressing coping with intersectional stigma and discrimination among racial/ethnically diverse sexual minority adults, including recently completed interviews with Latina transgender women and law enforcement officers through NIH-supported seed grant funding. Her preliminary analysis highlighted how transgender women are impacted by structural systems, which affect their health decisions and behavior. Hence, the recently funded research builds off of these preliminary findings to further involve legal, housing, and healthcare stakeholders to expand the proposed intervention content and ultimately conduct a pilot test of the intervention.  

Dr. Barreras is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach (BA in Psychology), California State University, Los Angeles (MSW), and the University of California, Los Angeles (PhD in Social Welfare). She is the daughter of immigrant parents and was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California. Dr. Barreras is fluent in Spanish and was also the first person in her immediate and extended family to attend college (and highlights that mentorship plays an instrumental role in her development).

Recent Publications:

  • Bogart, L. M., Barreras, J. L., Gonzalez, A., Klein, D. J., Marsh, T., Agniel, D., & Pantalone, D. W. (2020). Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of an Intervention to Improve Coping with Intersectional Stigma and Medication Adherence Among HIV-Positive Latinx Sexual Minority Men. AIDS and Behavior, 1-14. 
  • Linnemayr, S., Barreras, J. L., Izenberg, M., Brooks, R. A., Gonzales, A., & MacCarthy, S. (2020). Longitudinal Assessment of Changes in Mental and Sexual Health Outcomes Due to COVID-19 among Latinx Sexual Minority Men and Transgender Women. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 
  • MacCarthy, S., Izenberg, M., Barreras, J. L., Brooks, R. A., Gonzalez, A., & Linnemayr, S. (2020). Rapid mixed-methods assessment of COVID-19 impact on Latinx sexual minority men and Latinx transgender women. PloS one15(12), e0244421. 
  • MacCarthy, S., Wagner, Z., Barreras, J. L., Kim, A., Menodza-Graf, A. C., Giguere, R., Carballo-Dieguez, A., & Linnemayr, S. (2020). Brief Report: Using Behavioral Economics to Increase HIV Knowledge and Testing Among Latinx Sexual Minority Men and Transgender Women: A Quasi-Experimental Pilot Study. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 85(2), 189-194. 
  • Barreras, J.L., MacCarthy, S., Linnemayr, S. (2019). “We have a stronger survival mode” - Exploring knowledge gaps and the culturally sensitive messaging of PrEP among Latino men who have sex with men and Latina transgender women in Los Angeles, CA. AIDS Care. [Epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1080/09540121.2019.1601669. PMID: 30939901 
  • MacCarthy S., Barreras J.L., Mendoza-Graf A., Galvan FH., Linnemayr S. (2019) “Strategies for improving mobile technology-based HIV prevention interventions with Latino men who have sex with men and Latina transgender women.” AIDS Education and Prevention. doi: 10.1521/aeap.2019.31.5.407. PMID: 31550198 
  • Linnemayr, S., MacCarthy, S., Wagner, Z., Barreras, J.L., Galvan, F.H. (2018). Using behavioral economics to promote HIV prevention for key populations. Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research.9(11): 780.doi: 10.4172/2155-6113.1000780. PMCID: PMC6428081 
  • Linnemayr, S., MacCarthy, S., Kim, A., Giguere, R., Carballo-Dieguez, A., Barreras, J.L. (2018). Behavioral economics-based incentives supported by mobile technology on HIV knowledge and testing frequency among Latino/a men who have sex with men and transgender women: Protocol for a randomized pilot study to test intervention feasibility and acceptability. Trials. 19(1): 540. doi:10.1186/s13063-018- 2867-1. PMCID: PMC6173939