The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research to launch an unusual AIDS prevention community outreach project—unusual because the communities are located in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in Africa.

According to Malawi’s National AIDS Control Programme, an estimated 265,000 of the nation’s citizens have AIDS and another 735,000—10% of the total population—are infected with HIV. To try to reverse this alarming trend, the UIC nursing school will partner with the University of Malawi Kamuza College of Nursing to develop a five-year program designed to train and mobilize health workers in rural Malawi to become leaders in fighting the AIDS pandemic.

Kathleen Norr, PhD, an associate professor of maternal-child health nursing at UIC who has also been involved in AIDS prevention programs in Botswana, Lithuania, the United States and other countries, will head the project to design and implement an effective, culturally sensitive AIDS prevention model in Malawi, in collaboration with Chrissie Kaponda, PhD, and other University of Malawi nursing faculty. The program will consist of two phases:

• First, health care workers at a state-run hospital in one of Malawi’s 27 districts will receive a week of peer-education training, covering such topics as human sexuality, HIV transmission, the use of condoms and strategies for negotiating safe-sex practices with partners.

• In Phase Two, the health workers who received this training will instruct nurses and medical officers in one of the district’s rural clinics, as well as leaders of the rural villages the clinic serves. They will also organize community peer groups to teach villagers about AIDS prevention and help parents talk with their children about safe sexual behaviors.
 

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“The curriculum is designed to increase knowledge and awareness of AIDS and alter attitudes and behaviors that allow the disease to spread,” Norr explains. By educating hospital and clinic staff first, she adds, the program hopes to help Malawi’s medical professionals improve health care services for people with AIDS, who are often neglected because their cases are viewed as hopeless.

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