Andrea Romero, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, has received a three-year grant worth nearly $1 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to fund a substance abuse and HIV prevention research project. The project aims to increase awareness of HIV and substance abuse among youth and families in South Tucson, and is a collaboration between the UA, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) and the City of South Tucson. The partnership will be called the South Tucson Prevention Collaborative (STPC), and presents a unique opportunity for these organizations to bring together their expertise and provide effective substance use and HIV prevention programs.
The UA component will be led by Romero, who is on the faculty of the Mexican American Studies & Research Center, along with Sally Stevens, who is on the faculty of the UA Southwest Institute for Research on Women. The total amount of the grant over three years is projected to be $958,983.
The researchers hope to fill a void in scientific, culturally appropriate youth-based health programs, saying "There is a great need to prevent HIV/AIDS among Latinos, given that Hispanic women account for 20 percent of AIDS cases among women, and Hispanic children account for 23 percent among youth. The link between substance use and AIDS is well- documented, and the high use of substances among Latino youth increases their risk; Hispanic youth (12-17 years) have the second highest rate of illicit drug use (11.4%) and second highest rate of alcohol use (40%)."
The UA will provide a community empowerment curriculum "Latin Active" to 120 youths. Latin Active participants will then be recruited into an SAAF program to disseminate information about substance abuse and HIV to their peers, family and community. Program services will be provided through community-based organizations in South Tucson, where 83 percent of the community is Mexican American. A key component of the project is the active participation of teens in the fight against drug abuse and AIDS. Youth will organize and present substance abuse and HIV prevention-oriented, hip-hop performances (including break-dancing, DJ and Rap contests) for parents and community members. Through this mechanism Hispanic teens will be able to create outreach and education opportunities for their families and communities.