August 30, 2007
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact: Kaylyn Kendall Dines
UMDNJ is Recruiting 100 Youth to Serve as
Community Peer Educators in Safer Sex Initiative
NEWARK—Health professionals at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey are recruiting 100 teenagers to participate in a training program that will prepare them to share safer sex messages with their family, friends and community. Civic-minded youth, who are between ages 13 and 18 and have a strong interest in community-outreach, should call the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine (DAYAM) of the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School at 973-972-0759.
Since HIV, AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections are major public health problems, particularly in urban areas, the safer sex initiative was developed at UMDNJ in Newark. The goal is to prepare youth to spread preventive-health messages throughout the greater Essex County area as a way to help combat the spread of STIs. Health professionals from the P.O.W.E.R. (Peer Outreach Workers Educating Risk-Takers) Program at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School are conducting one-day training sessions.
During the training session, participants will have an opportunity to learn facts about HIV and STIs, prevention methodologies, and outreach techniques. Role playing will help participants learn how to talk with their peers about risky behaviors and how to make referrals for free HIV testing and counseling. Ethnically, environmentally and culturally sensitive messages will be shared during the training. In addition, tips on how to encourage people to be tested for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, pregnancy and high blood pressure will be shared.
After completing the training and passing a basic HIV/STI knowledge test, participants will receive a certificate of completion that recognizes them as Community Peer Educators within the DAYAM at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. 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.
“We combine facts and practical outreach techniques in the training sessions,” said Dr. Paulette Stanford, associate director of DAYAM and principal investigator of the initiative. “We want young people to have the necessary tools to help them encourage others to change or modify unhealthy behaviors related to sexual activity.
“Nationally, New Jersey is ranked as the state with the fifth highest number of HIV cases. Locally, African Americans account for between 75 and 80 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.”
When 16-year old Kamille Henry was accepted as a peer educator she was initially overwhelmed by the thought of enrolling in the program. She completed the training and is now confident enough to share safer sex messages with her family and friends. She casually and carefully encourages people to take a HIV/AIDS test. One of her messages, is “It is better to know than to be scared.”
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.
To arrange interviews with Dr. Paulette Stanford please call Kaylyn Kendall Dines at 973-972-5000.
UMDNJ is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,700 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.