The Institute was mandated by the Illinois General Assembly under the African American HIV/AIDS Response Act, P.L. 94-0629 of 2005, to explore the plausible link between incarceration and HIV infection. To meet the legislative mandate, a three-phase research plan was developed by the Institute as follows:
* Phase I (Completed)- a cross sectional study to determine the prevalence of high-risk HIV transmission behaviors in Illinois prisons. See Excutive Summary
* Phase II - focus group research technique to determine if there is a prison sub-culture, and the role of this sub-culture in the transmission of HIV
The HIV/AIDS Research and Policy Institute at CSU recently concluded a cross-sectional study of CSU students to determine the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of college students regarding HIV prevention. See Student Study Group Survey.
Dr. Esther Jenkins of the department of psychology under a mini grant from the Institute conducted a series of focus groups with female African American students at two campuses of the City Colleges of Chicago. See Focus Group Summary.
The Institute is currently conducting qualitative research on the acceptability of couple HIV counseling and testing (CHCT) for heterosexual African American and Hispanic couples. CHCT is an intervention that has been implemented in several developing countries with success. Two people in a relationship are counseled together and they receive their test results together. CHCT has advantages over individual HIV counseling and testing which makes it an attractive option to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among sero-discordant couples and HIV acquisition among HIV uninfected couples. The Institute is partnering with the South Side Help Center and the Centro Communitario Juan Diego for this project.
We surveyed state prison officials to 1) assess HIV testing and HIV prevention policies in the 50 states, and 2) determine whether those policies are associated with the characteristics of the state and its prison population. Qualitative data collected from a subset of state prison systems were used to explore reasons why some states have recently adopted peer education and other HIV prevention programs, while others have ended them. We found that peer education programs are perceived as highly effective but there remain barriers to their widespread adoption.
The prevalence rate of HIV in jails and prisons nationally is approximately 5 times the rate in the general population. Most of this elevated HIV prevalence in jails and prisons is likely due to pre-incarceration behavior rather than sexual or drug-related transmission within the institution. The current project is part of a larger project to adapt peer outreach models for drug treatment programs in jails and prisons. In peer outreach models such as Self-Help in Eliminating Life-threatening Diseases (SHIELD) participants are trained to be Peer Educators and are taught strategies to reduce HIV risk, as well as communication skills to teach these strategies to family, friends and other members of their social networks. It is as yet unknown whether training in peer outreach can be adapted for jails or prisons. Data for the adaptation of the SHIELD curriculum for a jail setting will be collected through qualitative focus groups and individual interviews with recently incarcerated individuals.