For Immediate Release

October 23, 2008

New York, NY — A $3.3 million, five-year grant was awarded to Dr. Nabila El-Bassel of the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW) by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the efficacy of a multimedia HIV prevention program.

Dr. El-Bassel and the Social Intervention Group (SIG) research team Louisa Gilbert, Dr. Susan Witte, Dr. Elwin Wu, and Dr. Matthew Epperson will implement Multimedia WORTH (Women on the Road to Health). 

WORTH is an online, interactive version of a drug use and HIV/STI prevention intervention among 420 drug-involved female offenders in a large Alternative-to-Incarceration Probation Program in New York City.  This 4-session, gender specific program aims to increase condom use and decrease the incidence of sexually transmitted infections among this population.

Recent studies have found that female offenders under community supervision test HIV positive at rates that are four times higher than the general population.  Findings indicate that up to 50% of drug-involved female offenders exchange sex for money or drugs and between 15-30% inject drugs.  Despite the growing number of drug-involved female offenders under community supervision and accumulating evidence of their elevated risk for HIV/STIs, there remains a critical gap in evidence-based HIV prevention interventions for this population.

“There is an urgent need to identify and scale up evidence-based HIV prevention interventions for drug-involved women on probation,” said Dr. El-Bassel. “The use of multimedia will enhance the delivery of the intervention and generate a better response by study participants.” 

Multimedia modules developed for the intervention – including video models and interactive tools – will also be used in Columbia courses to help social work and public health students, and other human service professions develop the skills needed in these fields.

The study will be conducted in partnership with Dr. Frank Moretti of the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learningand Ms. Raye Barbieri from the Center of Court Innovation and Bronx Community Solutions.

For more information or to interview Dr. El-Bassel, please contact Jeannie Hii at jy2223@columbia.edu or 121-851-2327.

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About the Social Intervention Group
SIG is a multidisciplinary research center at the Columbia University School of Social Work that works to develop and test effective prevention and intervention models and disseminate them to local, national, and international communities. SIG’s research addresses the co-occurring problems of HIV, drug abuse, intimate partner violence and trauma.

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