September 25, 2006
Contact: Kaylyn Dines
UMDNJ Seeks 200 Youth to Serve as Community Peer Educators
in New Safer Sex Initiative
NEWARK — The Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is expanding its corps of youth peer educators and recruiting young people for a sexually transmitted disease prevention training program. While HIV, AIDS and other STDs continue to be major public health problems in urban areas, two new safer sex initiatives that were developed at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School will prepare young people to make a difference in their communities. The initiatives are underway at UMDNJ’s Newark campus.
Health professionals from the P.O.W.E.R. (Peer Outreach Workers Educating Risk-Takers) Program at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School are seeking 200 teenagers and young adults who have a strong interest in learning safer sex messages that they can share with friends, family and peers. During the training sessions, which are aimed at combating the spread of STDs, participants will have an opportunity to learn facts about HIV and STIs, prevention methodologies, and outreach techniques.
After completing the P.O.W.E.R. training sessions and passing a basic HIV/STI knowledge test, participants will receive a certificate of completion that recognizes them as Community Peer Educators within the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. The Community Peer Educators will deliver HIV/AIDS awareness and risk-reduction messages and educational materials to their peers throughout greater Essex County.
“By giving young adults the facts and teaching them outreach techniques, we can help them encourage others to change or modify unhealthy behaviors related to sexual activity,” said Dr. Paulette Stanford, associate director of DAYAM at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and principal investigator of the initiative. “Nationally, New Jersey is the state that has the fifth highest number of HIV cases. Locally, African Americans account for approximately 75 percent of the HIV cases in Newark, which has the highest rate in Essex County. The need is great and young people who are trained can positively influence these statistics.”
“The youth we select must have a strong interest in learning, promoting, and teaching their peers and family members about safe sex practices and risky behaviors,” said Termerra Flournoy, program coordinator of the POWER program at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. “Our primary goal is to prevent the transmission of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections, particularly in urban areas where the at-risk population is large.”
Through role playing, groups will learn how to talk with their peers about risky behaviors and how to make referrals for free HIV testing and counseling. They will receive gender-oriented messages for various populations that are ethnically, environmentally and culturally sensitive. They will also learn how to encourage their peers to seek tests for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, pregnancy and high blood pressure. After three months P.O.W.E.R. Program staff will conduct follow up sessions with Community Peer Educators to determine the effectiveness of their outreach.
Through community outreach, the P.O.W.E.R. program continues to educate the public about risk reduction activities. This intervention program uses several methodologies including: one-on-one conversations in the community about behavioral risk reduction; interactive focus group discussions about behavioral risk reduction; and HIV/STI "Edutainment," which is a theatrical presentation that uses skits on teen issues and decision making as a tool to educate.
As part of the program, participants will receive bus tickets and other incentives. These initiatives are being sponsored by the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey; NJ AIDS Partnership; and the United Way of Essex and West Hudson.
Training sessions are ongoing, and teens and their families are encouraged to call 973-972-0759 and get more information about the program. Media wishing to cover the trainings can contact Kaylyn Dines at (973) 972-3000.
DAYAM was established in 1976 to improve the quality of life for adolescents and young adults through the delivery of a broad range of health, and psychosocial services and interventions in its inpatient, ambulatory and community based programs. Through basic and clinical research DAYAM expands the knowledge of all aspects of the health, development and behavior of adolescents and young adults. DAYAM uses its knowledge and expertise to develop efficacious responses to issues that adversely impacts the quality of life of adolescents and young adults.
UMDNJ is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.