The HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Synthesis (PRS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified a group-level intervention for drug-involved female offenders, which was developed by the Columbia School of Social Work’s Social Intervention Group (SIG), as meeting the PRS criteria for best evidence of efficacy.

SIG’s Women on the Road to Health (WORTH) intervention will be added to the CDC’s High Impact HIV Prevention website and highlighted as an evidence-based intervention for researchers, policy decision makers, and prevention providers.

WORTH is a group-level intervention that SIG developed to address a critical gap in current HIV prevention efforts with drug-involved women under community supervision, who remain at very high risk of HIV. Existing in both paper- and multimedia-supported versions, it aims to build skills and social support for HIV risk reduction by increasing condom use, reducing intimate partner violence, and linking women to HIV care, drug treatment programs and safety.

Over the past two decades, under the leadership of Dr. Nabila El-Bassel, SIG has conducted evidence-based intervention research in criminal justice settings and achieved significant national and international recognition for its work on HIV and drug abuse prevention. For Project WORTH (2009–2014), the SIG investigative team received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and worked in collaboration with the Center for Court Innovation, Bronx Community Solutions, and the New York City Department of Probation.

“SIG’s mission is to use the most innovative methods in social science to develop culturally and contextually congruent interventions on HIV, drug abuse, and partner violence for key affected populations such as women in the criminal justice system,” explained Professor El-Bassel. “The WORTH project is a great example of the community collaborative research we conduct at SIG. We are delighted that now we can expand our focus to effective dissemination and implementation strategies for the WORTH intervention. The field serving women involved in the criminal justice system has been asking for evidence-based strategies to reduce risk of HIV, partner abuse and to link women to HIV care and other services.”

Another member of the SIG investigative team, Dr. Louisa Gilbert, added: “To our knowledge, WORTH is the first integrated intervention that has been found to be efficacious in reducing both HIV risks and physical and sexual intimate partner violence among women who use drugs in community corrections. This study allowed us to quantify directly the effectiveness of the WORTH multimedia screening and linkage to services component for women experiencing IPV. We are delighted to see CDC recognize WORTH in its compendium of evidence-based interventions.”

“We are encouraged by the Project WORTH study,” said Tim Hunt, an associate research scientist with SIG, “which found two methods of implementing the WORTH intervention effective in addressing a critical gap in current HIV prevention efforts with drug-involved women under community supervision. We learned much about how to train providers and supervisors on implementing the intervention with fidelity.”

Photo credit: The four characters whose stories are told in the multimedia version of the Project WORTH intervention, via Project Worth.

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