Southern HIV & Alcohol Research Consortium (SHARC @ FIU)

Name of lab:

Southern HIV & Alcohol Research Consortium (SHARC @ FIU)


Epidemiology and Health Promotion & Disease Prevention

Subject area description:

The mission of the Southern HIV and Alcohol Research Consortium is to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission among the diverse range of populations affected by alcohol and HIV infection in Florida. To fulfill this mission, SHARC will foster interdisciplinary translational research, training, and community engagement.

Learn more about SHARC at our website: http://sharc-research.org/

Current Projects at Florida International University: 

Marijuana Associated Planning and Long-Term Effects (MAPLE) Study

Health outcomes and cognitive effects of marijuana use among persons living with HIV/AIDS

The MAPLE study is recruiting both users and non-users of marijuana over the age of 18. The primary focus of this project is to study the health effects of marijuana over time in people living with HIV and how marijuana relates to HIV care, chronic inflammation, and cognitive functioning. The long-term goal of this research is to provide patients, clinicians, and public health authorities across Florida with information to guide clinical and safety recommendations for marijuana use. Participants will complete a yearly interview where they are asked questions based on health and well-being, HIV care, and marijuana use; provide blood and urine samples; and perform memory and thinking tasks.

Selected Publication/Presentations:

Ibañez, G., Britton, M., Cohen, R., Somboonwit, C., Lawrence, S., Cook, R. (2020, June 20-24). Association between Marijuana Use and Cognitive Functioning among People Living with HIV in Florida [Conference Presentation]. College on Problems of Drug Dependence, Inc, Hollywood, FL, United States

Alzheimer’s-Gut-Microbiome Supplement for MAPLE

This supplement to the MAPLE study plans to recruit participants over the age of 60 to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mild cognitive disorders in older adults with HIV. The participants are given additional cognitive and functional assessments to determine the criterion for mild cognitive impairment, as well as differentiate between different types of cognitive impairment (e.g., HIV-associated neuropathy, acute marijuana intoxication, or pre-Alzheimer’s or related dementia). These findings aim to identify the risk factors contributing to the widespread prevalence of the disease in the aging population, to increase education centered around the identification and diagnosis of HIV-associated Alzheimer disease, and to inform future investigational studies.

The GEM Study:

A Mind-body intervention to reduce symptoms among people aging with HIV

The GEM study, or “Gentle Empowering Movement,” is a 12-week series of small group classes lead by a trained instructor that consist of slow, low-impact movements with older people living with HIV. The primary goal of this project is to determine the acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary efficacy of a mind-body intervention to alleviate physical and psychological symptoms. Participants must be 50 years of age and older, HIV positive, and be able to stand for at minimum 10 minutes. The total duration of the study is approximately 6 months, with pre and post intervention interviews.

Selected Publications/Presentations

Algarin, A.B., Varas-Rodriguez, E., Valdivia, C., Fennie, K.P., Larkey, L., Hu, N. & Ibañez, G.E. (2020). Symptoms, stress, and HIV-related care among older people living with HIV during the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami, Florida. AIDS and Behavior. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10461-020-02869-3

Ibanez, GE., Fennie, K., Larkey, L., Algarin, AB, Fein, M., Taskin, T. (2019). Development of a mind-body intervention for older people living with HIV (PLHIV): An exploratory clinical trial. Poster presented at the National Hispanic Science Network. October 2019.

Identifying barriers to HIV Viral Suppression in Transgender Populations in Florida: A Florida Cohort Supplemental Study

The Florida Cohort Study was initiated in 2014 to assess how individual, clinic, and community-level factors influence healthcare accessibility and utilization and HIV clinical outcomes across the state of Florida. This study is a supplement to the parent grant to expand the Florida Cohort to include transgender persons living with HIV. The outcomes are the same as the parent outcomes: to examine alcohol use and HIV care continuum. We will also collect transgender-specific data, including gender orientation, pre- and post-transition data, and HIV-related stigma, and how these may serve as moderators of alcohol use and HIV care.


Principal Investigator:

Gladys E. Ibañez, Ph.D.

Associate Director, SHARC@FIU

(305) 348-4920


Team Members:

Chelsea Valdivia, M.Ed– Research Coordinator II


(305) 456-0452

Sarah Lawrence, B.S.– Research Assistant I


(305) 456-2985

Angel B. Algarin, M.A.– Doctoral Student

Emil Varas-Rodriguez– Graduate Student

Hsu Thadar– Graduate Student

Michelle Agudo– Research Assistant


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