HIV/AIDS project takes novel approach

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As an experimental project to study HIV and AIDS in the Twin Countiesenters its second year of operation, the activists involved say they're making progress.

Project GRACE was established in September 2005 as a program to explore high rates of HIV and AIDS in the Rocky Mount area using community-based participatory research – a relatively new method intended to involve the subject community in the research process.

Unlike traditional studies that bring in outside researchers, research for the project is undertaken by a consortium of community leaders and citizens directly affected by the problem.

Now, the first of the project's three phases – a series of focus groups to gauge community concerns about the disease – has just been completed, and those involved say they're eager to take the next step.

"What we're hoping to do now is let everybody know what we're doing," said Selena Youmans, a Project GRACE coordinator with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. "We're going to be calling on leaders in the community and asking their opinions on these issues."

The study, sponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill, began with a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities. It came in response to the area's high HIV rates, particularly among blacks.

A 2004 study showed that Edgecombe County ranked second in North Carolina for the average rate of HIV cases from 2001 to 2003, while Nash County ranked 24th.

The project brings together local health officials, activists and residents to assist in the project. Participants include representatives from both county health departments and several area hospitals and clinics.

Having finished the first phase, coordinators are now looking to arrange one-on-one interviews with key players in both counties, using the information they've gleaned from the focus groups.

"We got a lot of good answers," said Melvin Muhammad, the project's outreach coordinator. "We're going to take those answers and present them to the key informants in the community."

Muhammad said common concerns from the focus groups included a lack of recreational alternatives for young people and a hesitancy among education and religious leaders to discuss sex and HIV.

Once interviews are conducted, the consortium will conduct door-to-door surveys in the community to round out their research. They will then sort through the results and try to come up with conclusions.

The project's leaders said the ultimate goal is to bring the impetus for change back to the community level.

"Politicians only deal with the issue when they're sort of pushed to deal with it," Youmans said. "We're emphasizing how to best educate the community on HIV and AIDS."

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This page contains a single entry by ID Admin published on October 25, 2006 3:52 PM.

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