July 13, 2010
Jeremy Craig, 404-413-1357
ATLANTA - Two Georgia State University professors in partnership with a South African university are working to build a way to help reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among youth, as well as reducing violence in the community.
Lisa Armistead, professor and associate chair of the Department of Psychology, and Sarah Cook, associate professor of psychology, are working alongside the University of Stellenbosch near Cape Town to build and examine an intervention that focuses on parent-child communication about sex and reduction of violence.
"It helps parents to communicate and to become more responsive," Cook said. "It will help provide two-way communication about sex, HIV, gender roles and violence."
The project is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health.
On July 19, researchers will head to Langa, one of the oldest and most established black townships established under the apartheid regime that controlled South Africa for decades, to perform a baseline assessment for their research into the intervention.
The need for better communication about sex, violence and HIV/AIDS is critical for a sub-Saharan nation like South Africa. While South Africa is the most prosperous sub-Saharan nations, it has one of the highest rates of HIV. And youth are especially at risk.
Additionally, the South African government, until recently, refused to acknowledge that HIV caused AIDS, contributing to misinforming people about the disease.
"The belief was that treatments emanating from the West actually made patients sicker," Cook said. "While denialism is present in the U.S., it really is not as big of a problem as it is in South Africa."
Traditionally, sex education was something that parent's didn't do, but "aunties and uncles" would perform, Cook said. Now, parents find themselves in the position that they are the ones who must educate their children about the subject.
"One legacy of apartheid is the destruction of family structures. Conversations about sex and sexuality were not seen as a parent's role," Cook said. "Now, because of globalization and urbanization, families do not all live together, and there's a gaping hole."
The intervention consists of presentations, discussions and storytelling in a group setting, Armistead said. The six sessions will include both full group and small group discussion, with role playing and modeling included. During the second and sixth sessions, children are involved and parents can practice their skills. The groups will consist of 90 families with 10 to 12 parents in each individual group; one-half of families will receive the intervention immediately, and the other half will receive it after the follow-up assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.