FemAALES was created out of a desire to improve the lives of African American women and their communities. Currently, African American women experience worse health outcomes than other women. African American woman are more likely to have high blood pressure, to have asthma, to be overweight or obese, and finally, more likely to have HIV or another STD than their White or Latina counterparts. Comprehensive and creative approaches are needed to alter this pattern and address disparities in health, including sexual health, in women of color.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 Black women accounted for 29% of new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent Blacks. Most of these new infections (87%) were attributed to heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new infections for Black women was 20 times as high as the rate for White women and almost 5 times as high as the rate for Latinas.
The renewed Females of African American Legacy Empowering Self (FemAALES – pronounced females) Project is being introduced Los Angeles community with funding from the NIH (National Institutes of Health). Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is partnering with University of California, Los Angeles and community healthcare organization JWCH Institute to test this innovative approach to improving health and preventing HIV in African American women. The FemAALES Project is unique in that one arm of our research, the FemAALES Intervention, has an emphasis on African American values and traditions.
FemAALES uses contemporary media is used as a starting point for discussions about every day circumstances and decision making. Sessions provide a forum for critical thinking and reflection about issues such as race, gender and social issues that affect the well-being of a Black woman in America. In 2008-2011, the FemAALES intervention was piloted with 219 African American women. Participants enjoyed the intervention and felt more empowered and motivated to make healthy decisions. Participants also reported reductions in frequency of unprotected sex and number of sexual partners.
The new and revised FemAALES intervention has an Internet expanded curriculum designed to will help participants better use this tool to access information and resources for health, employment, housing and many other services. In addition, participants will be encouraged to use social media for social support and to spread positive health messages to others.
Our other intervention arm, Health Alternatives for Reducing the Risk of HIV Program, HARRP, is an intervention developed and deployed for almost twenty years at the JWCH Institute. HARRP delivers information about STD and HIV using the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change. Participants attend 4 group sessions that weave HIV and STD transmission information into a discussion of risky behavior and their individual goals and values. Women in HARRP note an increase in self-esteem and health decision making efficacy.
Both interventions use sexual health goal setting as a starting point for future successful health behavior change.
The FemAALES and the HARRP group sessions are provided in local service centers and health clinics in Los Angeles. Participants are provided cash and non-monetary incentives based on their level of participation. Whether or not participants get assigned to an intervention arm, they will earn cash by completing 3 interviews over the course of roughly 12 months with the project.
We hope that our innovative methods and informative sessions will benefit our community. Women may able to learn more about factors that place them at risk for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. They may be able to overcome barriers preventing them from leading emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy lifestyles. Please direct Black women who are interested to call the FemAALES Project’s main line: 323-379-2050 where one of our staff will be able to assist them.
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