About the mSTUDY

The MSM and Substances Cohort at UCLA Linking Infections, Noting Effects (mSTUDY- U01DA036267) is a 10-year NIDA funded U01 research platform to assess the impact of substance use, particularly stimulants and cannabis, in a diverse group of mostly men of color who have sex with men on HIV outcomes. mSTUDY scientists and collaborators conduct basic research including understanding the basic biology of HIV transmission and pathogenesis, study immune dysfunction and chronic inflammation, genetic determinants, and the social, behavioral and intersectional factors that present challenges and result in higher morbidity among people who use drugs (PWUD) and people living with HIV (PLWH). mSTUDY is led by Dr. Steve Shoptaw and Dr. Pamina Gorbach in collaboration with two study sites in Los Angeles: The Los Angeles LGBT Center and the UCLA Vine Street Clinic.

  • mSTUDY focuses on minority men with 43% identifying as black/African American, 37% as Latinx/Hispanic, 12% as white and 8% other races.
  • Enrolled participants come for in person visits every 6 months and completing an extensive survey on substance use, sexual behavior and a variety of lifestyle factors. In addition, participants receive point of care testing and provide blood, urine and other biological specimens to objectively assess STI rates and substance use while building a robust biorepository.
  • Our extensive biological sampling allows for basic science research on the effects of substance use on the mechanism of HIV contraction and development.
  • HIV prevention, disease progression, comorbid STI infection, comorbid mental and general health disorders, and sociobehavioral health disparities are just a few of the outcomes the mSTUDY is able to assess.


Select study findings

mSTUDY has yielded strong research findings in three key areas: clinical sciences, basic sciences and sociobehavioral research. Within clinical research, studies including Shoptaw et al1 exploring the relationship between methamphetamine use and clinical conditions, sexual risk factors and social adversity, have utilized the depth of mSTUDY data to quantify methamphetamine use frequency and chronic mental and physical health conditions, co-morbid infections and social harms. mSTUDY has also been a platform for clinical trials, including Dr. Marjan Javanbakht’s investigation into the effects of antibacterial mouthwash on prevention of recurrent pharyngeal gonorrhea (R21AI147969).

Basic science research has primarily been supported through the collection of biorepository specimens. Studies using mucosal rectal and plasma samples were used to assess systemic and rectal inflammation in individuals with methamphetamine use and those with rectal gonorrhea and chlamydia2. Serum was additionally used in research on endocannabinoids and immune-related biomarkers to determine the impact of frequency of cannabis use on the enzymic activity in PLWH3.

Research into sociobehavioral has ranged widely, reflecting the abundance of data longitudinally collected across diverse topics. Some recently published highlights include Wiss et al.’s exploration of adverse childhood events, particularly sexual abuse, with depression and anxiety in adulthood4 and Javanbakht et al.’s report on behavior modifications in methamphetamine use, and median number of sexual partners following a diagnosis of chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis, which showed that the reductions following diagnosis were no different in those who were not diagnosed with an STI and the rates of STI incidence was high in both follow up groups5.


Available data

  • We have 629 enrolled participants (338 PLWH and 291 PWOH) with over 4,800 unique study visits.
  • Our data includes behavioral survey data covering demographics, substance use and networks, sexual behavior, substance use during sex, HIV status, prevention and care, STI prevention and treatment, lubricant use and anal hygiene, intimate partner violence, vaccine history, social stigma, behavioral factors, services accessed and mental health status.
  • Each visit includes clinical data with a full review of systems, a baseline physical exam and medical history performed by a clinician.
  • Visits include HIV assessment, a blood panel, substance use testing and STI testing.
  • The biorepository includes over 74,300 samples including rectal swabs and sponges, plasma, serum, viable frozen PBMC’s PBMC pellets, saliva, hair and nails.


Ways to Use mSTUDY in Your Research

There are a wide variety of ways to use mSTUDY data. Some recent examples have included:

  • Adding questions to the mSTUDY questionnaire to target specific study questions
  • Utilizing repository blood samples to assess immune function
  • Utilizing hair samples to assess substance use over long periods
  • Recruitment of mSTUDY participants for supplemental questionnaires and qualitative research that can be linked to main mSTUDY data
  • Using mSTUDY as a platform for clinical trials


Download Info-Sheet

mSTUDY Overview and Findings - Factsheet





















Contact Us

mSTUDY is excited to work with you! Please reach out to learn more and receive a copy of our sub-study proposal form.

Rachel Bolanos, Study Director


Pamina Gorbach, Co-PI


Steve Shoptaw, Co-PI



Additional resources: http://themstudy.gorbach.ph.ucla.edu/



  1. Shoptaw S, Li MJ, Javanbakht M, Ragsdale A, Goodman-Meza D, Gorbach PM. Frequency of reported methamphetamine use linked to prevalence of clinical conditions, sexual risk behaviors, and social adversity in diverse men who have sex with men in Los Angeles. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2022 Mar 1;232:109320. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2022.109320. Epub 2022 Jan 19. PMID: 35093681; PMCID: PMC8885921.
  2. Blair CS, Fulcher JA, Cho GD, Gorbach PM, Shoptaw S, Clark JL. Brief Report: Impact of Methamphetamine Use and Rectal STIs on Systemic and Rectal Mucosal Inflammation. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2023 Apr 1;92(4):281-285. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000003143. PMID: 36515912; PMCID: PMC9974870.
  3. Murray CH, Javanbakht M, Cho GD, Gorbach PM, Fulcher JA, Cooper ZD. Changes in Immune-Related Biomarkers and Endocannabinoids as a Function of Frequency of Cannabis Use in People Living With and Without HIV.Cannabis and Cannabinoid. 2023. Apr 20; http://doi.org/10.1089/can.2022.0287.
  4. Wiss DA, Prelip ML, Upchurch DM, von Ehrenstein OS, Tomiyama AJ, Gorbach PM, Shoptaw SJ. Association between Childhood Maltreatment and Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Los Angeles. J Urban Health. 2023 Apr;100(2):327-340. doi: 10.1007/s11524-023-00719-w. Epub 2023 Feb 24. PMID: 36826734; PMCID: PMC9951846.
  5. Javanbakht M, Miller AP, Moran A, Ragsdale A, Bolan R, Shoptaw S, Gorbach PM. Changes in Substance Use and Sexual Behaviors After a Sexually Transmitted Infection Diagnosis Among a Cohort of Men Who Have Sex With Men in Los Angeles, CA. Sex Transm Dis. 2023 Feb 1;50(2):112-120. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000001733. Epub 2022 Nov 6. PMID: 36342834; PMCID: PMC9839596.