An Arts-based, Multiple-intervention, Peer-education HIV & STI prevention program for high school youth
A MAKE ART/STOP AIDS Initiative
A program of the UCLA Art & Global Health Center and the Los Angeles Unified School District

Overview

Building from five years experience creating arts-based health programming, the UCLA Art & Global Health Center has developed a new model for youth-oriented sexual health education. AMP! affirms human sexuality while informing teenagers about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV prevention in a memorable and life-changing way. The result is a strong sexual health foundation which teens can build upon as they mature.

The face of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in Los Angeles County has changed. More new cases of HIV are diagnosed among teens and young adults 13 to 29 years old than any other age group. Particularly hard hit are young African Americans and Latinos, who in 2006 made up 84% of new HIV infections among 13 to 19 year olds, and 76% of HIV infections among 20 to 24 year olds in the US. Young women of color also suffer disproportionately. In 2004, African American and Latina women accounted for 83% of new infections in 13 to 24 year-old women in the United States. Los Angeles County has also seen a steady increase in rates and cases of syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea since 2002 and now has fully 42.8% of the total syphilis cases in California.

Prevention strategies must adapt to meet the changing needs of these Los Angeles communities, educating at-risk individuals in contemporary, meaningful, and sustainable ways. This is precisely the intention of AMP!, providing a new model for community-based sexual health education tailored to youth in communities at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The program provides at-risk teens with crucial information in a novel way, simultaneously informing and inspiring students to make responsible sexual health decisions.

Details

In 2010-2011, the UCLA Art & Global Health Center and cooperating partners presented AMP! to seven high schools and youth community centers throughout South and East Los Angeles, targeting teens between 13 and 19 years of age. The program is designed in a menu format, composed of multiple educative elements, each of which presents information in a different way, moving through movement, audio, and visual modalities. AMP! amplifies the existing framework by offering:

  1. Positively Speaking: A consortium of speakers living with or deeply affected by HIV/AIDS.
  2. UCLA Sex Squad: UCLA students present skits and role-play demonstrations exploring sexual health negotiation. The presentations cover condom use, female condom use, and other important sexual health issues via spoken word poetry, humor, interactive games, and other art forms.
  3. UCLA Sex Squad Performance: A performance piece delivered by UCLA students with the possibility of including high school students who participated in the program previously. The performance focuses on teen sexuality and is followed by peer-directed discussion.
  4. UCLA Sex Squad, Participatory Art-Making: A hands-on workshop led by UCLA students in which high school students have the chance to express themselves and incorporate what they have learned through the AMP it up! process. At the conclusion of the workshop, student-made art works and performances are displayed publicly.

Participating schools may pick several specific components, or adopt the complete framework, depending on preference and resource availability.

The AMP! model was piloted in 2010 at King Drew Medical Magnet High School in Watts, accompanied by a full formal evaluation. The evaluation took the form of pre- and post-intervention surveys, augmented by focus group interviews with student volunteers. With this first round of programming, we aimed to:

  1. Increase knowledge retention of HIV and AIDS transmission and prevention information;
  2. Reduce stigma against people living with HIV and AIDS among participating students; and
  3. Promote testing and prevention methods among participating students.

Survey results from the pilot phase were very encouraging, revealing significant improvements in information retention and well as positive attitudes towards people living with HIV. During focus group interviews, high school students specifically emphasized the impact of peer educators.

Positive changes in students attitudes from the pre- to the post-intervention surveys were striking in certain categories. These include:

  • An increase from 52% to 73% in students who report feeling compassion towards people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • An increase from 31% to 60% in students who agreed with the statement, “I speak up when I hear someone tell a myth about HIV/AIDS.”
  • An increase from 27% to 65% in students who know where to go in their neighborhoods to get an HIV test.
  • An increase from 65% to 76% in students who feel comfortable discussing the impact of HIV/AIDS with their peers.

Notably, when the question “Have you ever taken an HIV test?” was viewed only for students that were already sexually active, results were striking. We found more than a three-fold increase, from 14% to 59%, in sexually active students who have already taken an HIV test. This means that more than three times as many sexually active students chose to get tested for HIV during the intervention than prior to the intervention, indicating an actual behavior change result, rather than merely an intended behavior change.

Summaries of AMP! Evaluation & Research Studies can be found at artglobalhealth.org/research.

Expansion

This year, we plan to expand AMP!  further within Los Angeles high schools, largely targeting under-served communities in South and East Los Angeles. Ultimately, we aim to develop a comprehensive HIV and STI prevention model that can be adapted and used in high schools and universities around the world.

More Information

For more information about the program, please contact:

David Gere, Executive Director of the Art & Global Health Center (E: dgere@ucla.edu; T: (310)206-1334),

Bobby Gordon, Director of Special Programs for the Art & Global Health Center (E: robert.gordon@arts.ucla.edu),

Lakhiyia Hicks, Director of Community Engagement & AMP! Producer for the Art & Global Health Center (E: l.hicks@arts.ucla.edu; T: (310) 794-9058),

Elisabeth Nails, Assistant Director of the Art & Global Health Center (E: e.nails@arts.ucla.edu; T: (310) 825-6938).