Latoya Small, MSW, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Luskin School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare and is part of the Policy Impact Core at CHIPTS.  Her research examines how social determinants of health are associated with HIV treatment outcomes in both the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa.  More specifically, her work aims to develop evidence-based interventions focused on HIV and behavioral health among women and children, within the context of poverty.  Currently, Latoya has a project that is looking at how poverty, stress, parenting, and mental health factors impact adherence to HIV medical services among Black women in urban Los Angeles.

Prior to her research career, she provided direct clinical services for almost 10 years.  As a clinical social worker, Latoya provided mental health services to children and families in her hometown of South Los Angeles and later worked with persons who had severe and persistent mental illness, in a state psychiatric facility. Her international social work began when she worked with children in foster care in the United Kingdom. Afterwards, she moved to South Africa where she gained her first experience in conducting HIV research among vulnerable youth. These experiences laid the foundation for her health disparities research on HIV and behavioral health.

In 2015, Latoya received funding from the International AIDS Society to lead a two-year study entitled, “VUKA EKHAYA: A Take Home Family Intervention to Improve Adherence and Reduce Behavioral Risk among Perinatally HIV-Infected Youth.” This intervention was informed by community-based participatory research and aimed to address the need for empirically-informed and sustainable HIV care approaches for perinatally HIV-infected youth in Durban, South Africa. The study was a culturally-informed, cartoon-based family intervention designed for low-literacy populations, targeting mental health and risk behaviors of seropositive underserved youth.

Currently, Latoya is conducting a CHIPTS-funded pilot study, examining the relationship between mental health and treatment adherence for African American women living with HIV in urban Los Angeles. Charged by the recent policies that perpetuate inequities and health disparities faced by transgender people, Latoya adapted her research to include the needs of the transgender women and children, to better understand their unique experiences. This led her to receiving a UCLA junior faculty award to explore whether exposure to violence, discrimination, and health differ by race among transgender persons across different regions of the United States.

When she is not working, Latoya enjoys reacquainting herself with Los Angeles beaches, exploring taco stands, and hiking in Griffith Park.

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!