Nursing professor fights AIDS using haircuts
Professor Loretta Jemmott's study will educate males about STDs in West Philly barber shops
March 13, 2012, 10:31 pm·
A professor in the School of Nursing is looking to promote the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among black males through haircuts.
Loretta Jemmott has selected 48 barbershops in West Philadelphia to partake in an ongoing study. All of the barbershops are located in areas with high rates of AIDS.
When black males between the age of 18 to 24 come into the barbershop, they are offered the option of undergoing general testing for STDs. Additionally, the barbershop employees have been trained to educate customers on HIV prevention.
Any customers who participate in the study receive a free haircut, as well as $50.
After speaking to barbershop owners about her idea and receiving consent from them, Jemmott wrote a grant proposal and obtained $3.7 million from the National Institute for Child and Human Development to conduct the study.
Jemmott believes the study will be effective because of the nature of the relationship between barbers and their clients.
“Barbershop culture is very important in the African-American population because barbers tend to be the go-to people for young black males,” Jemmott explained.
According to Nursing graduate student Ciarra Lawson, site coordinator of the study, the barbers act as the facilitators by delivering a strong message to the young males.
After receiving thorough training, the barbers engage the study participants in conversations about strategies to reduce the risk of HIV and other STDs, prevent unplanned pregnancy, manage anger, reduce the number of sexual partners and increase condom use.
“There’s no better way to spread the message to young African-American men in the community than to have barbers help get the word out,” Loretta said. “It will use the innovative technology of Apple iPads, which will enable participants to easily access interactive videos and applications about discussion topics.”
For participants, the study consists of a two-day program that takes place over a two-week period.
On the first day, the participants are tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea in a mobile unit outside of the barbershop. After data have been collected, the participants take part in the first module by watching a video on an iPad that informs them about HIV-related facts. During the second module, they speak with barbers to reinforce the message given by the videos.
“The videos will definitely give young black males insight about HIV prevention, and I think they will have an impact on the choices that they make in the future,” Lawson said.
The participants then come back two weeks later to view their results and complete the last two modules.
In the third module, they learn about the topic of multiple partners, and in the fourth module they go back into the mobile unit for the second part of data collection. If they test positive for an STD, they are able to receive treatment immediately.
“It’s great that they can receive treatment right on the spot, and it’s an immense advantage of participating,” Lawson said.
The participants will have two additional follow-ups in intervals of six months, during which they will receive more testing.
“We will analyze whether their beliefs have changed and if the knowledge they received really did influence their choices,” Lawson said.
Jemmott added that she hopes to have more than 1,000 participants by the time the study concludes — which will be five years from now.
“HIV is increasing in the African-American population, and we must take time to learn why people do what they do, understand the code of the streets, listen to their voices, determine the attitudes and beliefs about their behavior and build the skills they need to change their behavior,” Jemmott said.