Study by OHSU's School of Nursing Will Look at HIV Prevention in the Rogue Valley Migrant Community

08/06/01    ASHLAND, Ore.

A new study by Oregon Health & Science University's School of Nursing's Ashland campus hopes to find better ways to educate the growing Mexican migrant communites in Southern Oregon about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention. The project will involve assessing the community's current knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about HIV; development of linguistically and culturally appropriate educational materials; and an evaluation of the impact of those materials. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are several successful HIV prevention models, but none of these interventions have been evaluated for effectiveness in the Latino population. The Northwest Health Foundation is funding the 18-month project with a $40,000 grant.

The study focuses on Southern Oregon because of its increasing Latino population, particularly in the migrant seasonal working community. A finding also found nationally in the 2000 U.S. Census Report, which showed a 58 percent increase in the Latino population since 1990.

"With an increasing Latino population, an increasing HIV infection rate in this population, and documented lack of knowledge of migrant farm workers about HIV prevention, it is essential that projects such as this one be initiated," said Debra Topham, R.N., Ph.D., co-principal investigator and assistant professor of nursing at OHSU School of Nursing's Ashland campus.

Researchers, outreach workers and community health nursing students will interview at least 200 members of Mexican migrant camps in Medford, Grants Pass, Phoenix and Talent beginning in late September or early October.

"This project interested us because it addresses several of the foundation's funding priorities, including preventing HIV in culturally diverse communities and providing community-based clinical opportunities for nursing students," said Michelle McClellan, program officer for the Northwest Health Foundation.

The CDC has stated that while the number of new acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) infections is declining and the number of people diagnosed with HIV has remained relatively stable in the general public, the HIV diagnosis rate is increasing in people of color. The CDC recognizes that cultural and linguistic barriers have hampered previous HIV prevention efforts in the Latino population. The CDC also states that the most successful prevention programs are tailored to the needs of local communities and thus should begin with a community assessment, as in the OHSU study.

"Because it is necessary to design community-level interventions to prevent new cases of HIV, it is essential to know the community's knowledge, attitudes and practices prior to designing such programs," said Wendy Neander, R.N., M.N., co-principal investigator and assistant professor of nursing at OHSU School of Nursing's Ashland campus.

OHSU School of Nursing hopes to use the data collected from this study to seek federal funds from the CDC or National Institute of Mental Health to support an ongoing HIV prevention program in the migrant communities of Southern Oregon.

"The foundation was eager to support a project that will provide pilot data for larger grant applications as the School of Nursing and its partners work to ameliorate a growing but preventable problem in Oregon's seasonal working communities," said McClellan.

The Northwest Health Foundation is an independent, private foundation committed to advancing, supporting and promoting the health of the people of Oregon and Southwest Washington. The foundation is open to innovative projects that address: health protection, mental health, basic and applied biomedical, health and socio-behavioral research, access to and quality of health care, direct service, education for professionals and health consumers, and health policy issues.