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Collaborations and Condom Distributions!
Friday, 23 August 2013 15:53


One of the first things that I wanted to do was to really target adolescents to help me volunteer as a part of my team. The reason for this is that young people in the age of 13-24 are disproportionately being diagnosed with HIV. Young African-Americans accounted for 65% of these new HIV diagnoses in the age ranges of 13-24 and young men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for 27% of the new cases (CDC 2011). I collaborated with the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) to recruit two rising high school junior students to join my volunteer team. Kenyetta Smith and Joshua Germain were two Health Science Academy interns who were participating in the Brooklyn Health Disparities(BHDC) Summer Internship Program  in collaboration with AAIUH. These interns would be working on a research project to address a health issue and also collaborate with a community-based organization (CBO). Kenyetta and Joshua’s research question was: Are communities of color aware of HIV transmission methods? As a part of their internship, I supervised the students and introduced them to AACAA.  As a team, we participated in street outreach in Brooklyn to distribute condoms ., distribute surveys, and to educate communities of color about HIV/AIDS. We learned a lot from doing this (Please read Kenyetta and Joshua’s blogs to hear from them and also see their research poster).


Personally, I learned about the power of collaborations and engaging in direct outreach. What better way to learn about a problem than to actively hit the streets and talk to communities which may be affected? The AAIUH and BHDC engage in great community engagement efforts to raise awareness to various public issues. Their goals are very much similar to the goals of the AACAA.  There is power in numbers.  From our street outreach efforts, I understood the power of gender when relaying important information; particularly when talking about HIV transmission methods through unprotected sex.  Men were more apt to talk to me and Kenyetta about sex and HIV transmission methods. Joshua had a harder time, but we saw that women were more apt to speak to him. This was something I did not put much thought into before our street outreach, but I immediately noticed the impact once we started condom distributions.  Also, there was a common myth that the NYC brand of condoms (in comparison to the Trojan/Magnum brands) were inferior and simply “not as good” according to many people. We also heard that the condoms “easily break” and “will get you pregnant”.  This led me to see firsthand the power of word of mouth and how a rumor could spread and easily influence many communities about something. People would refuse to take the NYC condoms and want to take other brands. This led my team to really discuss ways we could be more effective in educating people about the condoms. Truth be told: they are all made by the same manufacturer and are essentially the same condom but just with different sizing and brands! We sought to do more research on this and also make recommendations to the local and state governments about this, as it directly impacts people’s willingness to engage in safe sex practices.