Adolescents and young adults between 15-19 years of age have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies compared to any other age group. Los Angeles County (LAC) continues to have some of the highest rates of HIV and STDs in the country. There are over 44,500 people living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHA) in Los Angeles County. The majority (69%) of PLWHA in LAC are gay or non-gay identified men who have sex with men (MSM) with a 2005 study finding that 42% of HIV infected MSM in LAC were unaware they were HIV positive. African Americans have the highest rate of infection among all races/ethnicities in Los Angeles County. Similar to HIV, STDs in Los Angeles County disproportionally affect s African-Americans and Latinos. In 2008, Latinos made up 40% of Chlamydia cases and 22% of all Gonorrhea cases. African-Americans made up 24% of all Chlamydia cases in LAC, and 41% of all gonorrhea cases. It is estimated that 44% of youth, ages 12-17, have used to internet in search of sexual health information. 38% of tweens (12-14) and 77% of teens (15-17) have social networking site profiles. Additionally, 72% of 14-16 year olds and 84% of 17 year olds have cell phones and 38% indicate that they text messages friends daily.
Program background: Project U is a peer-driven social marketing campaign that links LAUSD students to an on-demand text message information service and website portal for sexual health information and services. Newly created LAUSD website portal and on-demand text messaging system provides access to HIV, STD, reproductive health and LGBTQ information and resources. Additionally, students are linked to local condom distribution and home testing STD programs. The goals are 1) Increase the percentage of LAUSD high school students who receive HIV/AIDS and STD prevention education; and 2) Increase the percentage of LAUSD high school students who use condoms and access HIV/STD testing, if sexually active. The LAUSD implemented a training model for youth Leaders on the Project U’s technological components, most recent health statistics, social marketing and community organizing in order to facilitate a social marketing campaign.
Evaluation Methods and Results: A baseline data on sexual behaviors were taken from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey data that was implemented at LAUSD. Focus groups were completed with youth. Currently, primarily focused on process outcomes based on the analytics, but evaluation tools have been developed for further online data compilation and analysis of behavior. A Pilot school model is being used for implementation.
Conclusions: Conclusions have not been made since the project technology launch have just recently went live. More reportable conclusion will be available by the time of conference.
Implications for research and/or practice: In the past several years, a growing body of evidence has emerged demonstrating the effectiveness of website and text based behavioral interventions. Based on research for successful youth participatory models and the current viral traffic to our mobile phone and web-based resources, the implementation strategies are effective.