The Division of Infectious Disease at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine proposes a partnership with the Atlantic County Sheriffs Office and other community sectors in 8 high-risk counties of New Jersey to provide prevention navigation services to 300 predominantly African American and Hispanic males, ages 13-24 at highest risk for substance use and HIV. Services include prevention planning, HIV and hepatitis testing, referral to treatment, and HIV care.
Rowan School of Osteopathic (RowanSOM) proposes a Prevention Navigator Program for High-Risk Young Men of New Jersey. The population of focus will be predominantly African-American and Hispanic youth ages 13 to 24 who engage in high-risk sex while under the influence of drugs and alcohol and are living with or at high risk for HIV. The project will target a sub-population of young men in New Jersey who simultaneously inject opiates (to relieve pain) and inhale crack cocaine (to increase sexual arousal) and participate in unprotected, receptive anal sex with other youth or with older men in exchange for money or drugs.
The geographic catchment area for the project will be eight counties in New Jersey with the highest opiate overdose deaths and highest HIV rates in the state. In 2017, the drug overdose death rate in New Jersey increased 29%, the largest in the nation. In the same year, New Jersey ranked eighth in the nation with 37,411 people living with HIV. These counties include Essex, Hudson, Union, Passaic, Mercer, Camden, Atlantic, and Cumberland. Of New Jerseys 21 counties, these counties accounted for 49% of all drug overdose deaths, 48% of all admissions to substance use disorders treatment, and 45% (16,800) of all people living with HIV in New Jersey including 37% of all African American and Hispanic men and 76% of all youth living with HIV.
Recruitment for the project will occur within the Division of Infectious Disease at RowanSOM and at high schools, churches, and other sectors in the catchment area. Street outreach will also be conducted in Atlantic County, New Jersey through a partnership with the Atlantic County Sheriffs Office which operates a mobile Hope One Recovery Unit. Navigators will engage low income, young Hispanic men who work as migrant farmers in western Atlantic County who exchange sex for drugs or money with gamblers in nearby Atlantic City.
The goals of the project are aligned with the five required activities listed on page 6 of the RFA and include: 1) development of partnerships with 15 community-based organizations each year to ensure youth at highest risk for substance use and HIV have access to services; 2) engage youth into services by implementing prevention messages that build awareness of the link between problematic substance use and high-risk sex; 3) provide HIV and hepatitis counseling and testing to 300 young men; 4) engage 300 young men in prevention navigation services that includes follow-up for up to one year in the community; and 5) provide education on the importance of HIV testing to 500 physicians who serve youth with opiate use disorders. The Center for Prevention Science at Rutgers University will be the evaluator for the project.