Dr. Helen-Maria Lekas is a trained ethnographer and qualitative researcher with many years of experience working with undeserved populations, and especially women in poverty. As an assistant professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences she continues her work with disadvantaged populations in New York City. Dr. Lekas is currently a co-investigator on a grant funded by NIDA that examines the challenges facing persons with HIV/AIDS who also are infected with Hepatitis C and have a history of injecting drug use. She is also involved with three other NIH-funded grants that explore the psychosocial challenges facing older adults with HIV, women with HIV, and persons with cancer and their caregivers, at the end of life. Dr. Lekas' published articles address the issues of testing and HIV, the use of AZT among women with HIV/AIDS who are pregnant or are contemplating pregnancy, symptom intepretation and HIV, and issues of stigmatization and HIV. Among her primary interests are highlighting how gender, race/ethnicity and class impact the illness-related challenges facing people with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. Dr. Lekas teaches a course, Living with Chronic Illness, in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, has developed materials for collecting and analyzing qualitative data, and been involved in the training of research staff for several projects within the Department of Sociomedical Sciences.
Areas of Expertise
Select Urban Health Activities
HIV-Infected IDU Living with HCV Coinfection: Dr. Lekas is conducting primarily qualitative research (as a co-investigator) among persons with HIV that are also infected with Hepatitis C and who reside in NYC. This study constitutes one of the first attempts to identify the complex psychosocial challenges facing patients that are coinfected with two communicable, stigmatizing, and life-threatening diseases. Moreover, the study focuses on injecting drug users, a traditionally underserved population. Finally, the study includes solely African American and Puerto Rican patients, two racial/ethnic groups that have been particularly hard hit by both epidemics of HIV and HCV. Therefore, the study design allows for significant comparisons by race/ethnicity.
Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Two Time Periods: Dr. Lekas is collaborating on a study that compares the different adaptive challenges and coping strategies employed by women living with HIV/AIDS before and after the advent of protease inhibitors in 1996. This quasi-longitudinal study using in-depth interview data from 1994-1996 and from 2000-2003 offers the opportunity to examine the impact of the more effective antiviral therapies on the lives of women with the disease. Issues of identity and stigma, relationships with family and especially children, emotional well-being, health and sexual behaviors, and issues of mortality and change in worldview were among the areas of interest discussed in the women's interviews.
How Do they Fare on Welfare: Single Mothers on Welfare Living in New York CIty: Dr. Lekas conducted an independent 16-month ethnographic study of single mothers receiving welfare benefits at the time of the welfare system's transition from the AFDC to the TANF program. Seventy in-depth interviews with mothers on welfare combined with data from the ethnographer's non-participant observations at three welfare centers provided rich qualitative data on the challenges these women faced both navigating the welfare system but also trying to participate and remain employed in the lowest tier of the labor market, called the pink-collar ghetto. The women interviewed were White non-Hispanic, African American and Puerto Rican, which allowed for interesting comparisons by race/ethnicity. Very few studies on welfare recipients in NYC have included White non-Hispanic recipients and in this respect this study is unique. Dr. Lekas also interviewed welfare workers that provided their own views on the changing welfare system. Therefore, this study offered the opportunity to explore the welfare bureaucracy on the street-level from both the clients and the workers' side.
Lekas H-M, Schrimshaw E, Siegel K Pathways to HIV testing among adults age fifty and older with HIV/AIDS AIDS Care In press
Siegel K, Brown-Bradley C, Lekas H-M Strategies for coping with fatigue among HIV+ individuals fifty years and older AIDS Patient Care and STDs In press
Siegel K, Brown-Bradley C, Lekas H-M Causal attributions for fatigue among late middle-aged and older adults with HIV infection Journal of Pain and Symptom Management In press
Siegel K, Lekas H-M AIDS as a chronic illness: psychosocial implications AIDS 16 (suppl. 4) S69-S76 2002
Siegel K, Lekas H-M, Schrimshaw E, Johnson J Factors associated with HIV-infected womenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s use or intention to use AZT during pregnancy AIDS Education and Prevention 13 (2) 189-206 2001