AIDS PREVENTION PROGRAM LAUNCHED IN CHICAGO'S LATINO COMMUNITY
The incidence of AIDS may be decreasing in the general population, but not in Latino communities. In Chicago, AIDS is the leading cause of death among Latino women between the ages of 25 and 44. Moreover, HIV infection rates are increasing for Latino women and women of color in general.
Nena Peragallo, an associate professor in UIC's College of Nursing, has launched an AIDS prevention program called Project SEPA - Salud/Health, Educacion/Education, Prevencion/Prevention y Autocuidado/Self-Care - funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Nursing Research. The program is based on a social learning model that calls for interactive education and a battery of training in communication and behavioral skills.
Project SEPA is unusual, however, in that it is led by and for Latino women and is specifically tailored to meet their needs. The program began a year ago, with 520 participants to date. Peragallo is recruiting now for the next phase of the project and hopes to have a total of more than 700 participants by the project's end.
"Despite the rising incidence of HIV infection among Latino women, no other community-based culturally tailored program has been developed and adequately tested to address these women's concerns," said Peragallo.
To develop the initial program, Peragallo and collaborators in the College of Nursing and the department of sociology conducted a series of focus groups to learn what issues Latino women found important and what they wanted from an AIDS prevention program. The current program, which was pilot-tested earlier, consists of six two-hour sessions for groups of 10 to 12 women. The sessions, conducted over the course of six weeks, are facilitated by trained bilingual and bicultural nurses.
Latino women have reported high rates of satisfaction with the program because it covers not only basic anatomy, HIV/AIDS in the Latino community, and male and female condom use, but also communication with partners and family, conflict management and prevention of violence. Through role-playing, participants practice talking more openly with their partners and learn negotiating skills to avoid risky sexual behaviors. Discussion fosters an atmosphere in which participants feel free to ask any questions they have.
According to Peragallo, one difficulty in decreasing HIV infection rates in the Latino community has been the lack of access to information about the risk of contracting AIDS - in particular, information in Spanish. Furthermore, studies, including preliminary data from Project SEPA, have shown that condom use is low in this population.
Recruitment for the next SEPA program starts Monday, Feb. 28. The program itself will start April 4. Latino women who are interested in participating in the study can call (312) 996-9994, (312) 355-2405 or (312) 996-5021.
With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area. UIC is home to the largest medical school in the United States and is one of only 88 national Research I universities. Its College of Nursing is ranked among the top 10 nursing schools in the country. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the area.
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