October 12, 2006

New York, NY — The Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW) is taking a new approach to translational research by infusing multimedia technologies to train HIV/AIDS prevention facilitators. Dr. Susan Witte, an associate professor at the School of Social Work, has received a grant to translate and replicate Project Connect, a program designed to promote prevention among heterosexual couples at risk for HIV infection. The replication will incorporate a multimedia training program for HIV/AIDS prevention facilitators.

Project Connect is an HIV prevention program first developed in 1997 by Dr. Nabila El Bassel and the investigative team at the Social Intervention Group at CUSSW. The program is the first HIV prevention program in the nation provided in a couple-based format and developed specifically to address gender-based and power differentials that remain significant barriers to successful HIV prevention. Couples participating in the prevention program attend six sessions where a facilitator works with them to learn communication, negotiation and sexual risk reduction skills.

“While most HIV intervention programs teach a woman or man to protect oneself, we saw the relationship as the unit of change ñ that it may take two to work together to reduce risk most effectively,” says Dr. Witte. “Additionally, printed materials have been traditionally utilized for the training of facilitators. By developing multimedia components, we will enable wider dissemination and access to the program.”

Dr. Witte is working in collaboration with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) to develop the multimedia training for facilitators. With the assistance of a community advisory board comprised of HIV prevention and services staff and consumers, she will translate the program sessions and research protocol into a printed manual for use in community-based agencies. Once completed, the program will then be implemented with case study agencies in New York, where, over 6 months, facilitators will be trained to use the program with their clients. Information gathered from the experience will then be refined and retooled into a final package that can be disseminated nationwide.

Dr. Witte is the Associate Director of the CUSSW Social Intervention Group (SIG). Her research and teaching focuses on the development and testing of prevention and treatment interventions targeting the co-occurrence of HIV/AIDS risk behaviors, substance abuse and interpersonal violence in vulnerable populations. Witteís special interests include dissemination of relationship-based interventions, promotion of female-initiated reproductive health technology, including the female condom, and a focus on highly vulnerable and underserved populations, including street-based sex workers. Witte is currently an investigator on several NIMH and NIDA-funded studies.

The translation of Project Connect is funded by the Replicating Effective Programs (REP) initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, or to interview Dr. Susan Witte, please contact Jeannie Yip at 212-851-2327 or jy2223@columbia.edu.

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