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121 South Main Street,
2nd Floor
Providence, RI 02912-G
Box G-S121-2
(401) 863-6790

Don Operario, PhD

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Title: Associate Professor
Department: Behavior and Social Sciences, School of Public Health
Section: Behavioral and Social Sciences Section.
+1 401 863 6657

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Overview | Research | Grants/Awards | Teaching | Publications

I am a social/behavioral scientist studying community-based health interventions and the social context of HIV/AIDS, focusing on the most-at-risk-populations in the United States and internationally. My general research interests include social psychological determinants of health inequalities, psychological and health consequences of stigma and discrimination, community collaborative research, and evidence-based practice and policy.


Don Operario is Associate Professor of Public Health and Director of the Master's Program in the Department of Behavior and Social Sciences. He was trained as a Social and Health Psychologist (BA, UCLA; MS, PhD, UMass Amherst; Postdoctoral Fellow, UC San Francisco). He was previously on the faculty of the University of Oxford (Department of Social Policy and Social Work) and before that was at the University of California San Francisco (Center for AIDS Prevention Studies - Department of Medicine). His research addresses two inter-related areas. The first general area is the social context of HIV transmission and the social sequelae of HIV/AIDS in affected communities, with an emphasis on developing and evaluating theory-based social and behavioral interventions in high-risk groups. A second research area is the lived experiences associated with social inequality, with an emphasis on understanding the perspectives of disadvantaged group members and addressing associated health and psychosocial disparities. He conducts research addressing both U.S. domestic and international public health issues.

Research Description

My research bridges behavioral sciences and public health, with a specific focus on social determinants and social sequelae of HIV/AIDS. I work with vulnerable populations for health disparities -including ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and other disadvantaged groups in the United States and in developing world settings. I am fundamentally interested in conducting work that has direct public health and policy relevance, aimed especially toward improving outcomes in underprivileged communities. My current work is based in urban centers in the United States as well as international settings including China, South Africa, Kenya and Mexico.

I am affiliated with the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS), Alcohol Research Center on HIV/AIDS (ARCH), and Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).

Current research studies include:

Sexual Minority, Addictions, and Sexual Health (SMASH): This NIH-funded research group aims to conduct theory-driven analyses, produce systematic reviews, support training and novel research on the co-occurrence of HIV risk, alcohol, and other health challenges, among sexual minority populations in the United States.

AiShiZi: In collaboration with Anhui Medical University (China), we develop and test interventions to promote HIV and STI prevention in primary care, and we examine HIV risk in migrants and sexual minority populations in China. Supported by NIH and the Brown University Office of International Affairs.

The Bruthas Project: In collaboration with UCSF and CAL-PEP (Oakland, CA), this NIH-funded project tests a behavioral intervention to reduce risk for HIV infection and promote HIV testing in African American MSMW.

Couples HIV Intervention Project: Development and test of an HIV prevention intervention for high-risk couples. A collaboration with Public Health Institute (Oakland, CA).

Project Two-Step: Qualitative research to examine the feasibility and acceptability of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention in serodiscordant MSM couples. Supported by the Lifespan/Brown/Tufts Center for AIDS Research.

Project Safe-ER: NIH-funded efficacy trial of a motivational counseling intervention to reduce alcohol and HIV risk among emergency room patients.

Punto Seguro: We are developing and testing an economic intervention to reduce STI incidence and HIV risk among male sex workers in Mexico City. Supported by NIH.

Heshima: Collaboration with Kenya Medical Research Institute and Oxford University to understand and develop prevention interventions for HIV risk and to promote effective public health practices for MSM in Kenya. Supported by the Oxford-Fell Foundation, USAID-R2P, and IAVI.


2012, Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching, Brown University
2007, American Psychological Association, Early Career Award, Minority Fellowship Program
2006, University of Oxford Excellence in Teaching Award
2001, UCSF-Robert Harris Award for Research in Health Psychology
1998, American Psychological Association Doctoral Dissertation Research Award
1995-1998, American Psychological Association Minority Predoctoral Fellowship


American Psychological Association
American Public Health Association
Cochrane Collaboration HIV/AIDS Group
Rhode Island HIV Prevention Community Planning Group

Funded Research

NIAAA, Sexual Minority Populations Core (Operario, PI)

NIMH, Developing an HIV Prevention Program for High Risk Couples (Operario, PI)

Brown Office of International Affairs, Social and Demographic Context of HIV Risk in Young Migrants in China (Operario, Zaller, Rivas-Drake, PIs)

NIAAA, Brief Interventions in the Emergency Department for Alcohol and HIV/Sexual Risk (Co-Investigator; Monti, PI)

NIMH, A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Bruthas Project: HIV Prevention Program for African American MSM (Co-Investigator; Arnold, PI)

NIDA, Individual & Family Motivational Interviews for Substance Using Truant Teens (Co-Investigator; Spirito, PI)

NICHD, Conditional Economic Incentives to Reduce HIV Risks: A Pilot in Mexico (Co-Investigator; Galarraga, PI)

NIAAA, Alcohol and HIV: Biobehavioral Interactions and Intervention (Co-Investigator; Monti, PI)

Teaching Experience

PHP 2300 Research Methods - Behavioral Science (Fall)
PHP 2330 Social and behavioral approaches to HIV prevention (Spring)

Recent Undergraduate Theses:

Juliana Alson ('10, Community Health): "The Role of Sexual Self-Efficacy in Acceptance of the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine"

Alysha Aziz ('12, Community Health): "Conceptualizing Mistrust of the Medical Establishment: Intersections between the Health Sector and Apartheid in South Africa"

Carolyn Chuong ('11, Community Health): "Impact of Parental Absence and Children's Living Arrangements on Education in South Africa: Beyond an Exclusive Focus on Orphanhood"

Gabriel Heymann ('10.5, Human Biology): "Strengths and Limitations of a Community-Based Sport and Peer Education HIV Prevention Program: A Qualitative Study, Lusaka, Zambia 2010"

Raphaella Lipinsky Degette ('11, Community Health): "Beyond Unmet Need: The Effect of Perceived Contraceptive Access on Reproductive Behavior in Santiago, the Dominican Republic"

Lea McDonald ('13, Community Health): "HIV Risk among Pawtucket Area Sex Workers: A Critique of Current HIV Prevention Models"

Natalia Nazarewicz ('11, Community Health): "Sexual Norms and Attitudes Among Young Men in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania"

Anna Quinn ('13, Community Health): "Identity Development of Female Nepali Bhutanese Young Adults in Providence, Rhode Island"

Ruthie Rosenberg ('09, Human Biology): "Act Like an Ovum: The Use of Theater in Health and Biology Education"

Ruth Shefner ('13, Community Health): "Understanding the relationship between substance abuse, violence, and HIV risk among female sex workers in Rhode Island"

Recent Graduate Theses:

Harman Arora ('12, MPH): "Predictors of Poor Mental Health Among Survivors of Sexual Violence"

Elisabeth Becker ('12, MPH): "Assessing Reliability of the Verbal Autopsy Method for Identifying HIV Status: Concurrent Caregiver and Child Reports in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa"

Kathleen Blaney ('12, MPH): "HIV Knowledge, Attitudes and Behavior in Rural China: Epidemiological Trends and Review of a Clinic-based Intervention"

Laura Dainton ('13, ScM): ""I've heard that they finish fertility": South African Adolescents' Perspectives on Contraception and Pregnancy in the Context of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Jane Fitzgerald ('12, MPH): "Orphans and Vulnerable Children: Children's Roles as Caretakers"

Jonathan Gilbert ('13, ScM): "Risk Taking Propensity as Mediator in the Relationship between Childhood Trauma and Alcohol Use during Early Adolescence"

Ben Grin ('13, MPH): "Knowledge of Acute HIV Infection by At-Risk College Students"

Shane Lloyd ('11, MPH): "HIV Risk Among Men who have Sex with Men with Experience of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Systematic Review"

Gavin Myers ('11, MPH): "Drug Use and HIV Risk Among Young Asian American Men who Have Sex with Men in San Francisco"

Danielle Poole ('12, MPH): "Feasibility of a pilot intervention to address mental health morbidities amongst South African orphans and vulnerable children"

Paige Walstrom ('11, MPH): "I think my future will be better than my past: Examining Support Group Influence on the Mental Health of HIV-Infected Rwandan Women."

Mei-Fen Yang ('13, MPH): "Systematic Review on Mental Health in Transgender Women"

Selected Publications

  • Kuo, C., Operario, D., & Cluver, L. (2012). Depression amongst carers of AIDS-orphaned and other-orphaned children in Umlazi Township, South Africa. Global Public Health, 7, 253-269.(2012)
  • Chuong, C., & Operario, D. (2012). Challenging household dynamics: Impact of ophanhood, parental absence, and children's living arrangements on education in South Africa. Global Public Health, 7, 42-57.(2012)
  • Lloyd, S., & Operario, D. (2012). HIV risk among men who have sex with men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse: Systematic review and meta-analysis. AIDS Education and Prevention, in press.(2012)
  • Kuo, C., Fitzgerald, J, Operario, D., & Casale, M. (2011). Social support disparities for caregivers of AIDS-orphaned children in South Africa. Journal of Community Psychology, in press.(2011)
  • Saleh, L. D., Operario, D., Smith, C. D., Arnold, E., & Kegeles, S. (2011). "We're going to have to cut loose some of our personal beliefs": Barriers and opportunities in providing HIV prevention to African American men who have sex with men and women. AIDS Education and Prevention, 23, 521-532.(2011)
  • Kuo, C, & Operario, D. (2011). Health of adults caring for orphaned children in an HIV endemic community in South Africa. AIDS Care, 23, 1128-1135.(2011)
  • Operario, D., Nemoto, T., Iwamoto, M., & Moore. (2011). Risk for HIV and unprotected sexual behavior in male primary partners of transgender women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1255-1261.(2011)
  • Operario, D., Nemoto, T., Iwamoto, M., & Moore T. (2011). Unprotected sexual behavior and HIV risk in the context of primary partnerships for transgender women. AIDS and Behavior, 15, 674-682.(2011)
  • Operario, D., Underhill, K., Chuong, C., & Cluver, L. (2011). HIV infection and sexual risk behavior among youth who have experienced orphanhood: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 14:25 [Epub ahead of print].(2011)
  • Cluver, L., Lane, T., & Operario, D. (2011). Educational shortfalls among adolescent 'young carers' in the South African AIDS epidemic. Journal of Adolescent Research, in press.(2011)
  • Operario, D., Smith, C. D., Arnold, E., & Kegeles, S. (2010). The Bruthas Project: evaluation of a community-based HIV prevention intervention for African American men who have sex with men and women. AIDS Education and Prevention, 22, 37-48.(2010)
  • Burton, J., Darbes, L. A., & Operario, D. (2010). Couples-focused behavioral interventions for prevention of HIV: systematic review of the state of evidence. (2010). AIDS and Behavior, 14, 1-10.(2010)
  • Kuo, C., & Operario, D. (2010). Caring for AIDS-orphaned children: An exploratory study of challenges faced by carers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 5, 344-352.(2010)
  • Wang, D., Operario, D., Hong, Q., Zhang, H., & Coates, T. (2009). Intervention to train physicians in rural China on HIV/STI prevention and risk reduction counseling. AIDS Care, 21, 468-492(2009)
  • Operario, D., Smith, C. D., Arnold, E., & Kegeles, S. (2009). Sexual risk and substance use behaviors among African American men who have sex with men and women. AIDS and Behavior, 15, 576-583.(2009)
  • Kuo, C., & Operario, D. (2009). Caring for AIDS-orphaned children: A systematic review of studies on caregivers. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 4, 1-12(2009)
  • Cluver, C., Gardner, F. & Operario, D. (2009). Parental illness, caregiving factors, and psychological distress among children orphaned by acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in South Africa. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 4, 185-198.(2009)
  • Cluver, L., Gardner, F., & Operario, D. (2009). Poverty and psychological health among AIDS-orphaned children in Cape Town, South Africa. AIDS Care, 21,732-741.(2009)
  • Wise, J., & Operario, D. (2008). Electronic monitoring devices to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy among people living with HIV/AIDS: Systematic review. AIDS Patient Care & STDs, 22, 495-504.(2008)
  • Underhill, K., Montgomery, P., & Operario, D. (2008). Abstinence-plus programs for HIV infection prevention in high-income countries. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Jan 23(1):CD007006.(2008)
  • Operario, D., Smith, C. D., & Kegeles, S. M. (2008). Social and psychological context for HIV risk in African American non-gay-identified men who have sex with men. AIDS Education and Prevention, 20, 347-359.(2008)
  • Operario, D., Han, C. S., & Choi, K. H. (2008). Dual identity among gay Asian and Pacific Islander men. Culture, Health, and Sexuality, 10, 447-461.(2008)
  • Operario, D., Cluver, L., Rees, H., MacPhail, C., & Pettifor, A. (2008). Orphanhood and completion of compulsory education among young people in South Africa. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 18, 173-186.(2008)
  • Operario, D., Burton, J., Underhill, K, & Sevelius, J. (2008). Men who have sex with transgender women: Challenges to category-based HIV prevention. AIDS and Behavior, 12, 18-26.(2008)
  • Hidaka, Y., Operario, D., Takenawa, M., Omori, S., Ichikawa, S., & Shirasaka, T. (2008). Suicide attempts and risk factors among young people in urban Japan. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43, 752-757.(2008)
  • Cluver, L., Gardner, F., & Operario, D. (2008). Effects of stigma on the mental health of adolescents orphaned by AIDS. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42, 410-417.(2008)
  • Operario, D., Soma, T., & Underhill, K. (2008). Sex work and HIV status among transgender women: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 48, 97-103.(2008)