July 20, 2011

New Passage to Prevention

EDC’s prevention programs echo the first national plan to reduce HIV and AIDS.

A teenage girl is caught sneaking out to meet with her older boyfriend. When she apologizes, her mother responds: “I don’t want you to be sorry because you were caught. I want you to be sorry because you put yourself at risk.”

The mother and daughter in this scenario are characters in a script, but the drama they are playing out is universal. The script, written for an EDC parent education program called Salud y éxito (Health and Success), models how families can communicate and set rules that lessen youth’s risks of contracting HIV. One feature that puts Salud y éxito on the cutting edge of national HIV prevention is that it’s designed specifically for Latino communities.

Salud y éxito is just one of the prevention programs by EDC that advances the first-ever comprehensive national plan to respond to the epidemic. Implemented by the White House in February, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy targets communities disproportionately affected by the epidemic: gay and bisexual men, African Americans, and Latinos. The federal government hopes to lower the annual number of new HIV and AIDS infections by 25 percent by 2015, from 56,300 to 42,225, by working with organizations such as EDC.

Drawing on a long history of evidence-based prevention programs and intervention strategies developed to combat HIV and AIDS, EDC plays a key role in efforts to ramp up prevention efforts by efficiently and effectively reaching out to the largest groups most at risk.

“The Office of National AIDS Policy has stated that in a time of tight resources we can no longer offer prevention as if everyone were equally at risk of contracting HIV,” says EDC’s Rebecca Jackson Stoeckle. “EDC is not only working with those most burdened by the epidemic, we are also on the vanguard of online learning.”

Stoeckle leads the e-learning team within EDC’s e-Learning and Capacity Building Assistance Center. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control, the center supports community-based organizations that deliver behavioral interventions, early HIV counseling, testing, and referrals to communities that serve African American and Latinos. The center also offers training and technical assistance to these front-line service providers with face-to-face support, and phone and e-mail assistance, and, increasingly, through the development of e-learning courses.

“The e-Learning and Capacity Building Assistance Center is very committed to developing online courses that are interactive,” says Stoeckle. EDC’s e-learning courses don’t simply aim to offer information, they also provide video models for best practices, including “soft skills” such as condom negotiation, structured opportunities for skill-building, and downloadable tools to support local implementation of programs and services.

EDC’s Amy Aparicio Clark hopes to help parents reduce early sexual initiation and drug use among pre-teens and teens through Salud y éxito. With funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, EDC is implementing and evaluating this parent program in urban communities where Latino youth are at disproportionate risk of contracting HIV. Each 20-minute CD features a series of two-minute dramatic stories that teach parents how to talk to their children about issues such as dating, puberty, and abstinence.

“It’s less likely that people will establish behavioral patterns that lead to HIV infections if certain behaviors can be nipped in the bud,” Clark says.

Salud y éxito is adapted from a similar HIV intervention for parents called Preparing Our Sons and Daughters for Healthy Futures, which aims to reduce HIV transmission among African American youth in high-poverty urban neighborhoods by 2012.

“Our program provides parents with models of how to make their values clear to their children,” says Clark. “It can be something for the whole family to listen to together on the way to school or in the kitchen while dinner is being prepared.”