Dr. Lesley Harris

Assistant Professor

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Dr. Lesley Harris’s research goals are to improve and extend intervention strategies for older adults who have been impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Her expertise is qualitative methodology (Ethnography and Grounded Theory), but she also uses quantitative methods in her research. Dr. Harris’s international work includes studies on grandparents raising grandchildren due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Vietnam. Focusing on local understandings of role meaning, context and coping strategies, she was able to identify phases of the “caregiving career,” and well was detect crucial points along this trajectory for social work and public health interventions. Her current projects incorporate understandings of HIV/AIDS and substance use disorders within the Vietnamese cultural context to describe the barriers facing grandparents in accessing anti-retroviral therapies for their grandchildren.

Since 2009, Dr. Harris has worked in partnership with Save the Children’s HIV Sector in Vietnam. Their research has led to the creation of “Empathy Clubs,” also known as support groups with a micro-lending component for grandparent-headed households. In addition, Dr. Harris and her colleagues created trainings for social care workers on how to include older adults into existing development programs. Currently, Dr. Harris is working on a project tracking the progression of life events leading to street-based sex work for homeless young adults living in Ho Chi Minh City, and how these life events influence health behaviors and employment strategies.

Domestically, Dr. Harris’s research interests involve the improvement of service delivery for persons over the age of 50 living with HIV/AIDS. She is studying the current state of HIV/AIDS care and prevention for older adults among aging service providers (long term care facilities, assisted living facilities and independent living communities) in order to understand the most effective strategies to meet the needs of this growing population.

At the University of Louisville, Dr. Harris serves as the Head of the Gerontology Specialization for the M.S.S.W. program. She also teaches Qualitative Research Methods in the Doctoral Program.