Teen Peer Outreach-Street Work Project: HIV prevention education for runaway and homeless youth

G D Podschun
Public Health Reports 1993, 108 (2): 150-5
Each year, there are approximately 2 million homeless and runaway youths in the United States. On any given night, there are 1,000 homeless youngsters living on the streets of San Diego, CA. Homeless young people are commonly involved in one or more of the following activities that place them at risk for HIV infection--unprotected sexual intercourse, needle-sharing in the use of injectable drugs, sex with someone who injects drugs. The Teen Peer Outreach-Street Work Project trains teen peer educators to work in three existing San Diego youth service programs with street outreach staff members to provide HIV prevention education and referral services to San Diego's homeless youth. Selected teens from the target population also participate in street-based case management that provides skill development to bring about behavioral and attitudinal changes. An HIV outreach program cannot stand alone and is most successful if it is integrated with services that meet the basic needs of its clients. In the three participating youth service programs of the Teen Peer Outreach-Street Work Project, food, clothes, and shelter information are provided. There are shelters in two of the three programs that become places where HIV educational messages, delivered on the street, can be reinforced. Immediate and concrete assistance can be offered to homeless youth. Low literacy among the target population presents a significant obstacle to adequate and appropriate HIV prevention education for homeless youth. Currently, education materials that specifically target homeless youth do not exit. The outreach street project is being expanded to develop materials for homeless youth with low literacy levels. Teen peers will be used to facilitate structured focus groups composed of members of the target population. Focus groups will be used in concept development, product development, and evaluation of draft products.Because the project is San Diego, it addresses an unmet need, reaching a population often missed by traditional HIV education efforts.

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