HiTOPS was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from FACT Bucks County to implement HIV prevention and risk reduction education programs, as well as a $500 grant from the Zonta Club of Trenton/Mercer to implement sexual health education for Latina youth and younger African-American girls to decrease rates of teen pregnancy and HIV/STI infections.
“Research is clear—half of all new HIV infections are occurring in people under age 25,” says Dr. Elizabeth M. Casparian, HiTOPS Executive Director. “Given New Jersey’s high rate of people living with HIV/AIDS, this is a priority for HiTOPS, and we value this partnership to reach broader high school populations with messages of prevention and risk reduction.”
FACT—an acronym for Fighting AIDS Continuously Together—was established in Bucks County in 1992 to increase awareness and raise funds to combat the growing AIDS epidemic in Bucks, Hunterdon and Mercer counties. “FACT Bucks County supports residents and organizations beyond Bucks County,” said Gary Guarino, FACT Bucks County and Health Officer for Hopewell Township Health Department, “and we are thrilled to support HiTOPS so it can continue this worthwhile service to the youth of Mercer County.”
In an effort to decrease rates of teen pregnancy and STIs among Latina youth, HiTOPS will apply the Zonta grant towards its 22-week program in which participants receive one session each on body image and media messages, two sessions on STIs and HIV/AIDS, and three sessions each on pregnancy prevention, dating violence and sexual assault.
The Latina Health Education and Empowerment Program (LHEEP) is a bilingual after-school program for Latinas who face greater than average risk for HIV and unplanned pregnancies. The model involves a public health approach for sexual health education, a community peer facilitator and trained sexual health educator, a focus on positive youth development through education, and empowerment as peer leaders and advocates for their own health.
According to The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, adolescence is “the healthiest period of the lifespan,” and at the same time, contains “the highest rates of risk-taking behavior and potentially life-threatening consequences.” This is why HiTOPS feels strongly about further developing these programs and making a positive impact on the Latino and African-American youth. In an effort to make these programs more accessible, HiTOPS is now also accepting Aetna Insurance.
HiTOPS is a non-profit organization located in Mercer County, New Jersey. HiTOPS envisions a world where youth have the resources they need to live healthy, responsible and empowered lives. For nearly 25 years, HiTOPS has provided adolescents with the knowledge, risk reduction strategies, and resources they need to reduce risk behaviors and make health enhancing decisions. For more information about HiTOPS, please visit www.hitops.org