This project will develop, implement, and evaluate a transformative virtual initiative, high-impact initiative for protecting rural drug-using populations at risk from HIV/HCV outbreaks in the midst of the opioid epidemic in the United States. Most counties at high risk for HIV/HCV outbreaks are clustered in Appalachia and the Midwest. Although the origins of the opioid crisis are complex, social determinants of health, misconceptions about opioids, and a culture of isolation and despair are among the most critical causes. However, Internet use is common among opioid users in these areas (e.g., Facebook) and may support scalable programs to supplement medical and public health responses to the crisis in difficult to reach regions. The digital platform will incorporate Big Data methods to identify efficacious messages, misconceptions, and debunking messages. The project will target rural millennials (ages 18-35), a population that is sufficiently young to be malleable, to prevent opioid addiction and negative health outcomes in middle age.
The project brings together stellar and committed investigators at eleven elite universities and an impressive network of state health departments. Congratulations Dr Albarracin!