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University Hospital of Brooklyn’s Arthur Ashe Institute curbs the spread of HIV in the community

In the U.S., a disproportionate majority of new HIV infections falls on young minorities, making HIV prevention among this population a high priority but one that has gone historically unaddressed. In 2018, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health — a community partner of the University Hospital of Brooklyn located at the hospital — began their Ready Set PrEPare initiative to tackle the growing number of HIV infections.

Data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene show that HIV prevalence in 2017 was highest in communities of Brooklyn like Brownsville, East New York and other Central Brooklyn communities. The Arthur Ashe Institute’s Ready Set PrEPare work is at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in New York City and this work is closely aligned with the Prevention Agenda priority action plan to prevent communicable diseases — focus areas 2 and 3.

Specifically, University Hospital of Brooklyn’s work addresses Prevention Agenda goal 2.2: increasing viral suppression by raising the awareness of and access to pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis. This work also includes increasing health literacy so that affected community members understand the importance of treatment to achieve an “undetectable level” of HIV. This will help reduce the spread of HIV and assist in ending the epidemic.

University Hospital of Brooklyn believes that barbers and hair stylists in particular can serve as mediators and trust-builders for educators, researchers and scientists who are striving for community empowerment, health and wellness. Community members as advocates, educators and health workers can improve health literacy and change health behaviors far beyond the capacity of researchers, educators and healthcare establishments not grounded in the community.

A total of 243 community members were directly trained and educated on HIV/AIDS prevention and risk management. This initiative achieved a 70.7% increase in knowledge in regard to whether “PrEP is considered a vaccine or not.” There has been a 61% increase in knowledge in regard to whether “If I take PrEP, I can stop using condoms when I have sex.”

For more information, contact Tenya Blackwell, DrPH, MS, director, community engagement and research, at tenya.blackwell@downstate.edu or (718) 270-6319.