Federal grant helps train peer advocates to reach out to Hispanic/Latino young adults
Funded by a three-year $900,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, California State University, Los Angeles will launch an HIV and substance abuse prevention program titled “Project Choice-CSULA.”
Coordinated by the Rehabilitation Counseling Education Program housed in the University’s Charter College of Education, this training program is designed to prepare college students for outreach immersion into their surrounding communities as trained Peer Health Advocates (PHAs) or Veteran Health Advocates (VHAs).
“We will begin working in collaboration with community partner, Asian American Drug Abuse Program, Inc., to increase knowledge and awareness of alcohol, drug and HIV issues, high risk behaviors, attitudes and perceptions among the target population,” said CSULA Professor Frances W. Siu, project coordinator.
Project Choice-CSULA’s primary focus is aimed at Hispanic/Latino young adults with special emphasis on veterans and people with disabilities. The project expects to reach about 1,000 individuals in the first year, 1,500 within the second year, and 2,500 during the last year of the grant period.
In a recent national survey regarding alcohol use and risky sexual behavior among college students and youth, the National Institutes of Health found that 45 percent of college freshmen who reported binge drinking failed to use contraceptives or protection when they engaged in sexual intercourse; among them, 7 percent were unaware of being infected with HIV.
Medical studies have indicated that in early stages of HIV infection, most people do not experience any symptoms.
The project’s outreach strategies include: peer-to-peer education through presentations, small group engagement and training; targeted community outreach by conducting strategic outreach and through information sharing; and resource referral services that encourage access to local health services.
Siu, who is also the undergraduate program coordinator of the University’s Rehabilitation Counseling Education Program, has conducted research focused on psychosocial aspects of disability and violence against people with disabilities. A CSULA alumna, she earned a Ph.D. in Special Education and Counseling, option in Rehabilitation Counselor Education, from the University of Texas at Austin. She is the recipient of the 2011 New Career in Rehabilitation Education Award, honored by the National Council on Rehabilitation Education. She is also a recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Women Award from CSULA.
“Through this project, CSULA will play a significant role in HIV/AIDS and substance abuse harm reduction,” said Siu. “Raising awareness and providing resources among young adults about the issues are our primary goals for this project.”