Yale University

Wise Women Win: Mentoring by and for Mature Women for HIV/STD Prevention

Funder: CIRA
Project period: 05/02/2006 - 04/30/2008
Grant Type: Pilot Project

Abstract Text:

AIDS Project New Haven (APNH), the oldest AIDS service CBO in New Haven, is proposing a timely and exciting research prevention/intervention. This project is designed to respond to the growing numbers of mature and sexually active women who are unaware of how aging increases the risks for heterosexual transmission of HIV. The unique perspective of this intervention is the value it places on the individual life experiences that any woman living with HIV (infected or affected) can offer her peers (infected or uninfected) to teach safer sex practices and encourage HIV counseling and testing.

This innovative program will train and empower women over 50 to be instrumental agents for selfcare behavior change. This cadre of women will then become mentors for their peers. The conceptual framework is simple and direct. Through the intentional recruitment of mentors who live with the reality of HIV disease, this intervention will capitalize on the power of interpersonal peer relationships to influence risk reduction behaviors. The intervention will build on prior training models that combine peer motivation with group support to effect critical behavior changes. During one of the formative focus groups comprised of local female community leaders, the proposal was summarized by one potential mentor as: "reach one, teach one."

The training topics will be practical and specific to mature women. They include preventing HIV/STD infections exacerbated by the physiological vaginal changes related to menopause; negotiating condom use with aging men who may be experiencing sexual dysfunction or experimenting with Viagra; and dispelling sex-related myths and misinformation. Behavior change, sustained over time, will be strengthened through the ongoing impact of peers mentoring peers, while the social stigma surrounding the sexual health priorities of older women will be reframed by informed and empowered consumers.