A behavioral scientist in the Psychology Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, David McKirnan has done research for 16 years in Gay/Lesbian communities, addressing alcohol and drug use, violence and discrimination, behavioral and biomedical approaches to HIV prevention, and HIV as a chronic disease. He is a Principal Investigator in the Research Department of Howard Brown Health Center, a lesbian/gay community-based organization, where he supervises research projects including coping with HIV infection, and long-term HIV vaccine trials. McKirnan has studied health promotion and treatment as an expression of larger cultural and personal influences. He has published theory and research examining people’s motivations for shifting from “mindful” self-directed behavior, to states of “mindlessness” where behavior becomes non-rational “automatic”, or chaotic. This oscillation is relevant to issues such as sexual risk taking, addictions, violence, and, generally, the social psychology of health and behavioral risk. McKirnan is currently applying this perspective to the area of coping with HIV as a chronic disease.
McKirnan has personal experience with chronic disease, as a 30-year diabetic. He is spending the winter recovering from a pancreas-kidney transplant. His other major activity is making found metal, stone, and wood sculpture.