Kaston Anderson-Carpenter, assistant professor of psychology in Michigan State University’s College of Social Science, focuses his academic expertise on ways to create more inclusive, informed services and resources for underrepresented groups.
Working closely with marginalized communities – including the LGBTQ+ community, individuals with HIV and those struggling with substance abuse – Anderson-Carpenter’s research looks for ways to create best practices to help those exhibiting high-risk behaviors.
Anderson-Carpenter’s research addresses the challenges and needs of specific communities so that treatment can be as personalized as possible.
“We could sit in an ivory tower and pontificate all day, but then we’d be talking in an echo chamber,” Anderson-Carpenter said. “It’s my belief that if we’re not disseminating our research to the communities we’re working with in ways it can be understood and used, then we don’t belong in our positions.”
One of Anderson-Carpenter’s recent studies highlighted the disproportionate incarceration rate of transgender women of color, finding that nearly half of HIV-positive transgender women of color under the age of 26 had been incarcerated within the past year.
“The research questions that I ask and my areas of interest are guided by the communities I serve,” Anderson-Carpenter said. “I’m a strong believer that if what I’m doing is not seen as something that is important to the community, then I should not be doing it.
Anderson-Carpenter is currently working on a project called Michiganders Empowered to Thrive in collaboration with the Ingham County Health Department and the Lansing Area AIDS Network. The goal of the research is to better understand the stigma experienced by individuals living with HIV and how that stigma impacts their decisions to engage in HIV care. Currently, the researchers are analyzing data from focus groups with non-heterosexual men of color to best understand their experiences within the health care system.
In 2018, Anderson-Carpenter and his team of student researchers studied pain reliever and sedative misuse amongst military veterans, looking specifically at the disparities between heterosexual and non-heterosexual veterans. The team found that bisexual military veterans are five times more likely to misuse opioid-based substances, highlighting an area of need that was previously unrecognized.
Anderson-Carpenter knows that, when it comes to interventions and treatment programs, one size does not fit all.
“If we paint everyone with a broad brush and then try to provide treatment and prevention services and therapies, some people’s needs may not be met,” he said. “If you want to change the behavior, you have to understand the context in which the behavior is occurring.”