By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ
Joscelyn Luque and Paula Grijalva, Pima Community College students at Desert Vista Campus, began looking into the Aztec Proactive Prevention Program after they saw flyers at their campus.
AP3 was developed for PCC students in an effort to prevent substance abuse and to decrease the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases.
The program is based at Desert Vista Campus but also focuses on PCC’s West and Downtown campuses.
The federally funded program collaborates with Amistades Inc., Behavioral Assessments Inc. and the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.
Two SAAF staff members, Remy Ruiz and Marcos Trujillo, conduct outreach and training sessions.
Trujillo said the program is designed to meet the specific needs of Latino and other young adults of ethnic minorities.
“This is incredibly important because we see that health disparities and rates of HIV infection are higher in Latino, black and indigenous communities than among whites,” Trujillo said.
“By aiming to meet the needs of these students, we are actually able to provide services to all students and provide programming that can still be relevant and helpful to students regardless of how they identify,” he added.
The AP3 grant program’s two components are HIV testing and an evidencebased intervention training program called “Say it Straight.”
“I had a lot of fun attending the ‘Say it Straight’ workshop,” Luque said. “They explained and talked about everything so confident and with such great understanding which made things that are usually uncomfortable or hard to follow easy to understand and follow.”
The training program can adapt to whatever the participant needs, whether it be a discussion on safer sex or substance abuse.
“It’s like a HIV 101 and a substance abuse 101,” spokeswoman Elva De La Torre said. “Then we take that information and we do different scenarios with the students using their real life experience.”
The evidence-based intervention is designed to help students through different communication styles. It gives them the opportunity to say no in situations that may put them at risk whether with substance abuse or sexually, De La Torre added.
The goal of the AP3 is to create a comfortable environment for students.
“I would recommend taking a friend so you wouldn’t go alone,” Grijalva said. “I was scared too, but we got to step out of that fear and learn how to be safe. It’s an environment where nobody judges.”
The workshops include a peer-to-peer component.
Students who have undergone the trainings are able to establish themselves as leaders since they’re able to attend outreach efforts.
“We are still developing this because we need students who have gone through the program in order to have them do this peer kind of health advocate component,” De La Torre said.
AP3 conducted a comprehensive needs assessment last year that allowed the program to pinpoint gaps in services for students.
“One of the things that continually came up is the fact that students don’t have a place to get this kind of information or to really get the supplies that they might need,” De La Torre said.
The trainings have been built on a foundation of respect and open-mindedness.
“We’re here to provide education on how to be safe and how to effectively communicate your needs, no matter what a person is or isn’t engaging in,” Ruiz said.
In the past year, AP3 has strived to establish itself on PCC campuses through outreach efforts.
Efforts have included frequent table displays, a practice in which two staff members hand out information and safe sex supplies.
“Outreach has really been our focus over the last year,” Trujillo said. “One of the things we are learning about our students is that many of them don’t have much information about HIV, sexual health and substance abuse.”
Creating a stable social media presence on Facebook has also helped to increase program awareness.
They’ve also increased communications with PCC student life in order to find out about upcoming events, where they may be able to provide information and free confidential HIV testing.
Trujillo said the AP3 program is currently developing electronic and print materials that will be available at all campuses and on digital bulletin boards.
“We really want students to start prioritizing their own health and fight stigma about learning how to keep themselves healthy and safe,” Trujillo said.