SuperTalk Mississippi

Mississippi doctor tapped to advise national health agencies on HIV

JACKSON, Miss. – University of Mississippi Medical Center STD/HIV expert Dr. Leandro Mena’s is expected to start advising national health agencies help set policies that address HIV, viral Hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases.

Mena currently serves as director of the UMMC’s Center for HIV/AIDS Research, Education and Policy within the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has appointed him to a four-year term on the Advisory Committee for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STD Prevention and Treatment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The committee also reports to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Mena is the Medical Center’s professor and chair of Population Health Science in the John D. Bower School of Population Health. In a statement issued by the UMMC, Mena was chosen in recognition of his expertise and efforts in creating and promoting culturally and clinically competent HIV and STD prevention and treatment for gender and sexual minorities and communities of color. He is a researcher, educator and clinical partner with a number of organizations devoted to sexual health and HIV prevention in these undeserved populations.

As a committee member, Mena will advise the CDC, HHS and HRSA “regarding the goals, objectives, strategies, and policies of each agency in their missions of providing prevention and treatment services for HIV, hepatitis and other STDs,” said Dr. Bettina Beech, founding dean of the School of Population Health and professor of population health science, pediatrics and family medicine.

“Only by addressing critical health challenges, in the context of accessing health care, with innovative strategies will we be able to eliminate health disparities in our communities,” Mena said.

He serves as medical director for the Crossroads Central Clinic, a state Department of Health-run clinic for STD and HIV testing, treatment and counseling. It’s the only publicly funded clinic of its kind in the state. Mena supervises a clinical and epidemiologic research team in conjunction with the clinic.

He also is medical director of Open Arms Healthcare Center, a community-based clinic that offers primary care and mental health services with an emphasis in the health-care needs of LGBT populations in Jackson. Mena is associated with My Brother’s Keeper, a Jackson-based community outreach organization that works to improve the health and well-being of minorities. My Brother’s Keeper also is committed to HIV prevention and elimination of health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations.

Mena has a national audience through the YouTube series #AskTheHIVDoc in which he and two other doctors give frank, information-packed answers to questions about sexual health.

“I am greatly honored,” Mena said of his selection. “I look forward to working in support of the response to HIV and AIDS, viral hepatitis and STDs in our nation and U.S. territories.”

“We are so pleased that Dr. Mena’s substantive knowledge, expertise and passionate commitment to decreasing the incidence and prevalence of HIV has been acknowledged on a national level,” Beech said.

“His drive to improve the quality of lives of his patients is positively inspiring.  Dr. Mena’s presence on this advisory committee will help UMMC stay apprised of changes in policies and procedures regarding infectious diseases. His representation will further our goal of improving the health of all Mississippians.”

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