New AIDS Arms program to help HIV-positive individuals
AIDS arms, Inc., the largest private nonprofit AIDS service organization in North Texas, has launched a new program INSPIRE (Integrated Solutions for Persons in Risk Environments) to help address the needs of newly-paroled HIV-positive individuals while assisting them in reintegrating into their community.
Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms, said “We have great expectations for success for our INSPIRE program. Up to 5 percent of the current 150,000 inmates in the State of Texas are HIV positive.”
Nobles said that 120 to 150 HIV-positive individuals are released from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system every month.
“Within 48 hours of release from prison, most individuals will have unprotected sex,” Nobles said. “18.5 percent of Texas inmates return to the Dallas area upon release. This program will build systems of success for individuals for the safety, health and welfare of themselves and the community they re-enter,” she added.
INSPIRE will be the first program of its kind to use formerly incarcerated peer educators to use the skills they mastered while “inside” to provide HIV education and risk behavior interventions outside the walls.
INSPIRE’s goal is to prevent and reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis and avoid the onset of substance abuse in the population, Nobles said. Communities of color already experience greater disparities in accessing health care and other services disproportionately represent the incarcerated population, she added.
AIDS Arms’ Free World Bound Program currently provides education and risk prevention curricula through peer educators inmates trained and certified to facilitate workshops on HIV, STDs, and high risk behavior in 22 correctional facilities in the state of Texas.
The program is the first of its kind to offer such complete programming within a corrections system and beyond into the free world community, Nobles said. Prevention, case finding, pre-release planning, post-release linkage to care and support, as well as re-integration assistance that includes opportunities for recent release peer mentors to use their skills to help others.
Outside the “Walls”‘ education and prevention strategies continue to teach the avoidance of substance abuse, HIV and hepatitis transmission, and high risk sexual behaviors, Nobles said. The instant rapport and trust engendered by peer educators on the “inside” will continue in the free world communities in Dallas, she added.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 14, 2006.
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