Fenway Health Newsroom 10.07.2014

The Fenway Institute Approved for $813,000 Research Funding Award to Study Sexual Health of Female-to-Male Transgender People

Project will have a national and international impact on sexual health screening for FTMs

The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health has been approved for an $813,000 funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the sexual health of female-to-male (FTM) transgender people. The study is one of 46 proposals PCORI approved for funding on September 30 to advance the field of comparative clinical effectiveness research, and to provide patients, healthcare providers, and other clinical decision makers with information that will help them make better-informed choices.

Sari Reisner, ScD will lead the research project which will focus on innovations in preventive sexual health screening in sexually-active FTM transgender patients. This will include assessing the acceptability and comparative effectiveness of self-swab HPV testing compared to provider clinical swabs, as well as investigating the prevalence of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in this group. The project is designed to fill key gaps in clinical knowledge about sexual health in FTMs by comparing the effectiveness of alternative strategies for sexual health prevention, screening, and diagnosis.

The award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract to The Fenway Institute.

“This project will have a national and international impact on sexual health screening for FTMs, an underserved patient population,” said Dr. Reisner, a transgender health researcher at The Fenway Institute and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health. “Most FTM transgender men retain their natal reproductive organs. Our preliminary research suggests that more than one in three of FTM patients are not up-to-date on cervical cancer screening and many are not getting routine screening for STIs. We know that it is hard for FTM patients to find health care providers who are knowledgeable about health issues specific to transgender people, and can talk about sexual health in sensitive and gender-affirming ways. We hope that our research will find new strategies of care that could potentially lead to alternative screening strategies, as well as less invasive STI detection practices. Ultimately, our goal is to find ways to improve the health of FTM patients.”

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options,” said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with The Fenway Institute to share the results.”

This study and the other projects approved for funding by PCORI were selected from 490 applications that responded fully to PCORI’s funding announcements issued in February 2014. They were selected through a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians, and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals. Applications were assessed for scientific merit, how well they will engage patients and other stakeholders, and their methodological rigor among other criteria.

PCORI is an independent, non-profit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 to fund comparative clinical effectiveness research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health and healthcare decisions. PCORI is committed to seeking input from a broad range of stakeholders to guide its work. It has approved $671 million to support 360 research studies and initiatives since it began funding research in 2012.

For more than forty years, Fenway Health has been working to make life healthier for the people in our neighborhood, the LGBT community, people living with HIV/AIDS and the broader population.  The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health is an interdisciplinary center for research, training, education and policy development focusing on national and international health issues. Fenway’s Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center cares for youth and young adults ages 12 to 29 who may not feel comfortable going anywhere else, including those who are LGBT or just figuring things out; homeless; struggling with substance use; or living with HIV/AIDS.  In 2013, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts joined the Fenway Health family, allowing both organizations to improve delivery of care and services across the state and beyond.

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