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Expert at Melding Real-world Issues, Health Research to Kick Off Strauss Lectures

A nationally leading expert at making sure HIV and AIDS research programs apply in real-world settings will deliver the season’s first Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture research at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke.

Julie Pulerwitz, director of the HIV and AIDS program of the Population Council in Washington, D.C., an international nonprofit organization that conducts research in biomedicine, social science, and public health, will talk about “Transforming Evidence into HIV Policies and Practice: Lessons from Global Implementation Science” on Sept. 19.

During her career, Pulerwitz said she realized that many of the messages of her programs, centering around HIV, for example, were important, but people couldn’t act on them.

“For example, if you recommend to a young woman to use condoms, she has to negotiate that with her partner,” Pulerwitz said. “She would tell me, ‘I can’t go home and talk to my partner about that. That would cause conflict, that would cause violence.’ That was really an ‘aha’ moment for me. I knew that I needed to learn more about what these underlying dynamics were that led to this risk and led to the challenging circumstances people are facing.”

An accomplished behavioral scientist and a leader in the science of health implementation, Pulerwitz is widely recognized for her innovation and expertise in behavior change communication, gender and male engagement, and stigma.

Her work has led to the development of conceptual and methodological scales to measure power in sexual relationships and gender norms, allowing for the comparison of attitudes and behaviors across different contexts and populations. These tools have shaped HIV and gender-based violence prevention programs across the globe.

Pulerwitz emphasizes that researchers must engage in regular dialogue with communities and policymakers in order for HIV research to effectively inform programs and policies.

“Dr. Pulerwitz’s lecture will describe studies that have involved community and other stakeholders in research and its application,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology. “The National Institutes of Health recognize a critical issue that impedes improvements in public health today is the gap between what we know can optimize health and health care and what actually gets put into practice. Efforts to close the gap are important for the benefits of what we have learned from the science to be realized.”

The free presentation, named for Maury Strauss, a Roanoke businessman and longtime community benefactor, begins at 5 p.m. with a free public reception followed by the hour-long lecture starting at 5:30 p.m.

Pulerwitz directed and and now oversees Project SOAR (Strengthening Operational AIDS Research) for the Population Council, a $50 million implementation science project that generates evidence to inform programs and policies for HIV prevention, care, and treatment around the world.

She also initiated and now supports the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded DREAMS global implementation science project, focused on reducing HIV risk for adolescent girls, young women, and their partners. Prior to her current position, she was the director of the HIV and TB Global Program at PATH.

She provides strategic guidance and technical leadership for a global, multimillion dollar portfolio of research, including projects focused on key populations, gender- based violence, HIV and sexual reproductive health service integration, and evaluating innovative implementation models.

Pulerwitz has more than 20 years of experience in program design, implementation, and research and evaluation. She has led projects in more than 20 countries across Africa, including Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia as well as throughout Asia, and Latin America.

She received an undergraduate degree in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and the Doctor of Science degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and has been widely published in leading peer-reviewed journals, including Lancet Public Health, Lancet HIV, the American Journal of Public Health, AIDS Behavior, the Journal of Adolescent Health, and the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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