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Released April 14, 2004

HIV/AIDS GRANT TO HELP INCARCERATED
FEMALE TEENS MAKE BETTER DECISIONS
By Angela Cutrer

HATTIESBURG -- It seems four times is the charm for an associate professor in the School of Nursing at The University of Southern Mississippi when it comes to getting a grant recognized.

"It's a five-year grant that we almost gave up on," said Dr. Sherry Hartman of the $1.6 million "HIV Risk Reduction Among Young Incarcerated Females" grant designed to determine the effectiveness of an enhanced HIV/AIDS prevention program. "It was our fourth submission, and we finally got it."

Perseverance from Hartman and fellow nursing professor Janie Butts means the grant, of which $700,000 goes to Southern Miss, will provide the opportunity to study incarcerated female teenagers at Columbia Training School in Columbia.

Hartman, working with Dr. Angela Robertson of Mississippi State University, will hire two educators and one nurse to be based in Columbia to provide the educational interventions developed in the grant. Hartman hopes the new grant will help incarcerated female teenagers make healthier choices in life.

"The primary investigator and co-investigator is Angela Robertson, and I'm serving as the project director and co-investigator," Hartman said. "This study builds on BART, a program that helps teenagers in 'Becoming a Responsible Teen,' which has been researched and shown to be effective.

"It builds on the enhanced part of BART because it will focus only on females who are incarcerated, from a rural setting and already engaging in risky behaviors such as alcoholism and drug use. We hope, too, to get these girls to start asking questions of their sexual partners, so they can make informed decisions. It's 'enhanced' to meet the needs of young adolescents."

Hartman, who has been with Southern Miss almost 15 years, said the goal of the project is to change risky sexual behavior. "It's different from BART because it's longer, and it's targeted to females, who have different issues than males," she said. "These girls are dealing with multiple risks because they are in prison already, so they have multiple risky behaviors. We want to help them with problem-solving skills, communication and decision making.

"The program will follow girls for 18 months; it's more than just pen and paper measure," Hartman added. "We'll get more accurate or precise measures from this type of program. Angela is putting all the questionnaires together on a computer that speaks to you. If the females in the study are bored easily or can't read, they might be more engaged with the computer. It's also better for collecting our data."

The grant goes along with Southern Miss' desire to work for local communities. "This grant is the result of many years of research and study," said Dr. Joan Exline, interim dean of the College of Health at Southern Miss. "I am so pleased to see them get to take the next step with the study and do the good work they are doing."

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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