Early Stage Investigator Lecture

2024 Awardee: Jessica Perkins, Ph.D., M.S.

Jessica Perkins
Jessica Perkins, Ph.D., M.S.

Assistant Professor
Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Lecture Title

Misperceived Social Norms as Drivers of HIV Prevention: Exploring Opportunities for Individual and Social Change

About the Lecture

Understanding how perceptions about normative health behaviors drive individual health behaviors has been a focus of substance use prevention efforts for more than three decades in the United States. However, social norms about HIV prevention and treatment behaviors are understudied as drivers of health-promoting behavior and prevention intervention uptake. Stronger HIV prevention is needed, particularly in many parts of Southern and Eastern Africa. In this presentation, Dr. Jessica Perkins describes misperceived HIV-related norms and why these misperceptions matter for multiple levels of HIV prevention. She discusses developing interventions to harness perceptions about existing protective norms to enhance the uptake of HIV-related health behavior interventions.

About Jessica Perkins

Dr. Jessica Perkins is an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development and serves as core faculty at the Vanderbilt Institute of Global Health. In her interdisciplinary work as a social and behavioral scientist, Dr. Perkins explores social norms and social networks as drivers of substance use, violence, and HIV prevention and treatment and co-occurring behaviors and health outcomes. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers, many of which focus on misperceptions about health-promoting norms within local networks as opportunities to implement norms-based strategies to prompt individual and collective change. 

Dr. Perkins’ research in rural Uganda focuses on social norms and health outcomes among adults in an ongoing network cohort study. Additionally, she assesses structural and social determinants of stigma and HIV prevention and treatment in Tennessee using community-engaged, mixed methods. She also studies health-promoting social norms among adolescents and young adults across the United States. Her work has been funded by an NIH Career Development Award (K01MH115811) and the Tennessee Center for AIDS Research. Dr. Perkins earned her Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard University, her M.S. in population and international health from Harvard School Public Health, and her undergraduate degree in psychology from Davidson College.

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