Sherry Deren headshot

Sherry Deren

Senior Research Scientist
Co-Director, CDUHR

1 212 998 9015

433 First Avenue
Room 750
New York, NY 10010
United States

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Professional overview

Sherry Deren, Ph.D. is the Co-Director of the NIDA-funded P30 Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), located at the New York University (NYU) College of Nursing. Dr. Deren is a social psychologist, and has been Principal Investigator for many NIDA-funded research projects related to drug use and HIV. Her recent research interests have included multi-disciplinary studies on the impact of drug injection on immune activation, and multi-level influences on HIV risk behaviors among Puerto Rican drug users in Puerto Rico and NYC. CDUHR, focused on the socio-behavioral study of drug use-HIV/AIDS, has been funded since 1998, and provides a research infrastructure to support over 70 research projects and over 80 investigators, at NYU and affiliated institutions, related to the Center’s theme: “Discovery to Implementation & Back: Research Translation for the HIV/Substance Use Epidemic.” Dr. Deren is a co-founder and steering committee member of the New York HIV Research Centers Consortium, comprised of over 25 HIV Research Centers in the New York tri-State area. She has served on numerous NIH research review committees, and is an author of over 150 articles related to HIV/AIDS among high-risk substance users.


Ph.D., Social Psychology


Infectious disease
Substance use

Professional membership

American Psychological Association
Society of Psychologists in Addictive behaviors
American Public Health Association
New York Academy of Medicine



Barriers and facilitators to successful transition from long-term residential substance abuse treatment

Manuel, J. I., Yuan, Y., Herman, D. B., Svikis, D. S., Nichols, O., Palmer, E., & Deren, S. (2017). Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 74, 16-22. 10.1016/j.jsat.2016.12.001
Although residential substance abuse treatment has been shown to improve substance use and other outcomes, relapse is common. This qualitative study explores factors that hinder and help individuals during the transition from long-term residential substance abuse treatment to the community. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 32 individuals from residential substance abuse treatment. Based on the socio-ecological model, barriers and facilitators to transition were identified across five levels: individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy. The major results indicate that primary areas of intervention needed to improve outcomes for these high-risk individuals include access to stable housing and employment, aftercare services and positive support networks; expanded discharge planning services and transitional assistance; and funding to address gaps in service delivery and to meet individuals’ basic needs. This study contributes to the literature by identifying transition barriers and facilitators from the perspectives of individuals in residential treatment, and by using the socio-ecological model to understand the complexity of this transition at multiple levels. Findings identify potential targets for enhanced support post-discharge from residential treatment.

Continuing Links Between Substance Use and HIV Highlight the Importance of Nursing Roles

Deren, S., Naegle, M., Hagan, H., & Ompad, D. C. (2017). Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. 10.1016/j.jana.2017.03.005
Links between HIV and substance use were identified early in the U.S. HIV epidemic. People who use drugs are at risk of HIV infection through shared injection equipment and risky sexual behaviors. In addition, substance use has negative health consequences for people living with HIV. The prescription opioid misuse epidemic, linked to injection drug use, hepatitis C infection, and HIV, poses a new threat to declining HIV rates. We reviewed evidence-based interventions that decrease HIV risk in people who use drugs (needle/syringe programs, medication-assisted treatment, engagement in HIV care, and preexposure prophylaxis/postexposure prophylaxis). The critical roles of nurses in HIV prevention/care for this population are described, including applying the principles of harm reduction, screening for substance use, and undertaking implementation and research efforts. As the nation's largest health care profession, nurses are positioned to contribute to the quality of HIV-related prevention/care for people who use drugs and to lead practice initiatives.

Challenges in recruiting people who use drugs for HIV-related biomedical research: Perspectives from the field

Batista, P., Deren, S., Banfield, A., Silva, E., Cruz, M., Garnes, P., Cleland, C. M., Mehandru, S., Lamar, M., & Markowitz, M. (2016). AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 30(8), 379-384. 10.1089/apc.2016.0135
Recruitment of people who use drugs (PWUD) for HIV-related research has been undertaken since early in the epidemic. In early studies, recruitment was often performed by outreach workers with familiarity with the target population, who distributed risk reduction materials, and administered the surveys being conducted on drug use and risk behaviors. The evolution of effective treatments for HIV has provided opportunities for PWUD to participate in biobehavioral studies testing the efficacy of medical treatment advances and exploring the underlying biomedical basis for prevention and treatment efforts. Recruitment for these studies has led to new challenges for outreach workers and institutions conducting this research. PWUD, particularly those from race/ethnic minority populations, have had lower rates of engagement in HIV care and have been underrepresented in HIV/AIDS medical studies. To address these health disparities, enhanced efforts are needed to increase their participation in biomedical studies. This article examines the challenges identified by experienced outreach workers in recruiting PWUD for HIV-related biomedical studies, including individual (participant)-, institutional-, and recruiter-level challenges, and provides recommendations for addressing them.

Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection and the Proinflammatory Effects of Injection Drug Use

Markowitz, M., Deren, S., Cleland, C., La Mar, M., Silva, E., Batista, P., St Bernard, L., Gettie, N., Rodriguez, K., Evering, T. H., Lee, H., & Mehandru, S. (2016). Journal of Infectious Diseases, 214(9), 1376-1382. 10.1093/infdis/jiw373
Background. Chronic inflammation, as defined by persistent immune activation, is associated with adverse clinical outcomes. People who inject drugs (PWID) have evidence of persistent immune activation. Here, in a cohort of PWID with or without hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, we sought to dissect out the contribution of chronic HCV infection (common in PWID) from the effects of injection drug use itself. Methods. Four groups of study volunteers were recruited: group 1 comprised active PWID; group 2, individuals who ceased injecting drugs 1-2 months before recruitment; group 3, individuals who ceased injecting drugs 3-4 months before recruitment; and group 4, healthy volunteers. Soluble and cell-associated markers of immune activation were quantified. Results. HCV-viremic PWID have elevated levels of immune activation when compared to healthy volunteers. Cessation of injection drug use results in a decline in immune activation in the absence of HCV viremia, while HCV-viremic individuals who previously were PWID continue to harbor elevated levels of immune activation, as defined by increased levels of soluble CD14 and tumor necrosis factor α and by the presence of CD38+HLA-DR+ CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. Conclusions. Immune activation, a well-defined surrogate of poor clinical outcome that is elevated in PWID, can regress to normal levels in former injection drug users who are HCV aviremic. Therefore, enhanced harm-reduction efforts should incorporate aggressive treatment of HCV infection. Clinical Trials Registration. NCT01831284.

The Relationship Between Injection Drug Use Risk Behaviors and Markers of Immune Activation

Deren, S., Cleland, C. M., Lee, H., Mehandru, S., & Markowitz, M. (2016). Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 10.1097/QAI.0000000000001270
ABSTRACT: High levels of immune activation are reported for people who inject drugs (PWID). Studies of the relationship between injection behaviors and immune activation have yielded mixed results, in part due to lack of control for HCV in analyses. This study, of 48 HIV-seronegative PWID, examines this relationship controlling for HCV viremia. Frequency of injection was positively related to markers of immune activation (sCD14, %CD8+CD38+HLADR+T cells), as was duration of injection (hs-CRP and D-dimer). Sharing injection equipment was not related to markers studied. Findings suggest that efforts to encourage injection cessation or reduction in frequency can have positive health benefits through reducing immune activation.

Broadening Substance Use(r) Research and Intervention Efforts to Address Context

Deren, S., & Tross, S. (2015). Substance Use and Misuse, 50(8), 1171-1173. 10.3109/10826084.2015.1010833

Deren et al. respond

Deren, S., Gelpí-Acosta, C., Albizu-García, C. E., González, Ángel, Des Jarlais, D. C., & Santiago-Negrón, S. (2015). American Journal of Public Health, 105(1), e3-e4. 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302409

Gender-Specific HIV prevention interventions for women who use alcohol and other drugs: The evolution of the science and future directions

Wechsberg, W. M., Deren, S., Myers, B., Kirtadze, I., Zule, W. A., Howard, B., & El-Bassel, N. (2015). Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 69, S128-S139. 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000627
The use of alcohol and other drugs (AODs) is an important driver of gender disparities in HIV prevalence. Consequently, there is a need for women-specific HIV interventions that are conceptualized to address (1) women's risk behavior, their roles in sexual relationships, and gender power dynamics and (2) other issues commonly faced by women who use AODs, such as gender-based violence and victimization. This article presents the evolution of HIV prevention intervention research with women who use AODs. It looks at 3 generations of women-focused HIV research interventions, including firstgeneration projects that started in the 1990s, second-generation efforts where projects expanded in scope and included adaptions of evidence-based interventions for global relevance, and finally third-generation projects currently underway that combine biobehavioral methods and are being implemented in real-world settings. Because women who use AODs continue to report risk behaviors related to HIV, emphasis should be placed on training scientists to conduct gender-specific studies, increasing funding for new studies, and advocating to ensure that stigma-free services are available for these at-risk women.

Opioid Use Trajectories, Injection Drug Use, and Hepatitis C Virus Risk among Young Adult Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union Living in New York City

Guarino, H., Marsch, L. A., Deren, S., Straussner, S. L., & Teper, A. (2015). Journal of Addictive Diseases, 34(2), 162-177. 10.1080/10550887.2015.1059711
Available evidence suggests that young former Soviet Union immigrants in New York City have high rates of non-medical prescription opioid and heroin use, drug injection and injection-related risk behavior, making them vulnerable to hepatitis C virus (HCV)/human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, overdose and associated harms. This group has been the focus of little research, however. This paper presents quantitative and qualitative data from 80 former Soviet immigrants (ages 18-29) to characterize their opioid use trajectories, injection risk behavior, HCV/HIV testing histories and self-reported HCV/HIV serostatus, and provides clinically meaningful data to inform tailored education, prevention and harm reduction interventions.

Addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic among puerto rican people who inject drugs: The need for a multiregion approach

Deren, S., Gelpí-Acosta, C., Albizu-García, C. E., González, Ángel, Des Jarlais, D. C., & Santiago-Negrón, S. (2014). American Journal of Public Health, 104(11), 2030-2036. 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302114
High levels of HIV risk behaviors and prevalence have been reported among Puerto Rican people who inject drugs (PRPWID) since early in the HIV epidemic. Advances in HIV prevention and treatment have reduced HIV among people who inject drugs (PWID) in the UnitedStates. We examined HIV-related data for PRPWID in Puerto Rico and the US Northeast to assess whether disparities continue. Injection drug use as a risk for HIV is still overrepresented among Puerto Ricans. Lower availability of syringe exchanges, drug abuse treatment, and antiretroviral treatment for PWID in Puerto Rico contribute to higher HIV risk and incidence. These disparities should be addressed by the development of a federally supported Northeast-Puerto Rico collaboration to facilitate and coordinate efforts throughout both regions.