Jane Simoni is a Professor of Psychology, a clinical psychologist, and a Co-Director of UW’s Program on Global Mental Health. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Global Health and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Dr. Simoni’s research addresses the mental health treatment gap experienced by historically oppressed and stigmatized groups around the world, such as sexual and ethnic minorities, women, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. To expand access to effective health treatments, she has developed several culturally-sensitive interventions that focus on medication adherence and HIV diagnosis disclosure by means of peer support and/or computer-based technologies. Dr. Simoni approaches her work as a social activist and cites Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a book authored by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, as a significant influence on her research topics and the individuals and populations with whom she works.
In an interview with UW ADVANCE, Dr. Simoni discusses her research projects and shares two of her recent professional accomplishments.
Q&A: Current research and professional accomplishments
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: One of my recent projects addresses the HIV/AIDS crisis in China. There is still a lot of stigma attached to individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Chinese towns and cities, which causes widespread isolation and depression among those already coping with serious medical concerns. The stigma also prevents individuals from accessing and taking readily available medications that would improve their conditions. My research seeks to understand what facilitates or prevents individuals from accessing medications and taking them as prescribed. I am also working to develop a culturally sensitive intervention to target these concerns as well as psychological distress, in part through a computer program called “Turning to Sunshine.”
A other project we completed on the U.S-Mexico border aimed to increase the treatment of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Like in China, those diagnosed with HIV in Mexican cultures often struggle with depression, and consequently take their required medications infrequently or inconsistently. This project involved the development and testing of a culturally appropriate intervention, centered on cognitive-behavioral therapy, to alleviate individuals’ depression. We also piloted a Spanish-language electronic pillbox that monitors individuals’ medications and reminds them to take medications when needed.
Q: What are some of your recent accomplishments?
A: The Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention has recommended two interventions that I developed to be disseminated through an e-learning training toolkit for HIV providers. The interventions assist individuals living with HIV to adhere to their anti-retroviral therapy (ART)—medications that slow the growth of the HIV virus—and ultimately improve their quality of life and extend their lifespans. I also received a 2015—2018 High End Foreign Expert Award from the Chinese government for addressing the mental health treatment gap through my research described above.