A New Study Looks at an Innovative HIV Prevention Program Aimed at African American Girls

This mantra is part of a program to help prevent HIV infection among African American teenage girls, a program tested in a new study published in a special HIV and AIDS theme issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Gina Wingood, Sc.D., M.P.H., with Emory University: "Unlike many programs which focus on HIV risk and prevention, our program focused on enhancing self-esteem, self-awareness and self pride in being a young, African American adolescent female."

Gina Wingood and her husband and fellow Emory University researcher Dr. Ralph Diclemente, along with colleagues at three other universities, authored the HIV prevention study. They enrolled 522 sexually active teenage African American girls in their study. Half the girls went through the four-part, tailored HIV prevention program, focused on self-esteem and HIV education. The other half went to general health education sessions.

Dr. Ralph Diclemente, Ph.D., with Emory University, says girls in the tailored prevention program showed positive behavior change.

"Consistent condom use increased between 30 and 40 percent. This is very significant, as inconsistent condom use is one of the primary predictors of HIV infection."

The girls who took part in the program were also more likely to refuse or avoid unsafe sex, had fewer new sex partners and were less likely to become pregnant.

Health educator Nikia Braxton says this study proves that one size does not fit all in health education.

"You have to meet them where they are. You have to make a connection, and the only way to do that is to specifically tailor the program to meet their needs. You must have self-love, self-respect, you must be a courageous woman, you must be the type of woman that is strong." these are the lessons learned in this prevention program, which is teaching these girls how, and why, they should protect themselves from HIV infection."