Power of Collaboration: Fostering community engagement and strengthening resources.

Founded in 1982 as Texas’ first organization dedicated to HIV prevention, education, and services, AIDS Foundation Houston (AFH) is Houston’s community organization focused on preventing HIV and serving the HIV community. Our goal is to decrease the impact of HIV/AIDS in the community and get to zero new transmissions. We do this by providing stabilizing services to people who are most vulnerable of being affected by HIV/AIDS.  Through our tenure, AFH has had the opportunity to align with community partners to best utilize all resources and provide clients best care locally and nationally.

Through a partnering opportunity with the National Library of Medicine (NLM), AFH along with The University of Houston Biomedical Sciences Department successfully launched Project HELP (HIV, Education, Learning, and Prep). The project places trained Community Health Workers (CHWS) to work in areas of the Houston community which have been heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS and other health disparities.  AFH understands the vital role CHWs provide by connecting communities to needed services. The identified CHWs working for Project HELP are gatekeepers of the community and make a tremendous impact due to their understanding of the community that they live and serve in, this identified community is third and the fifth ward of Houston, TX.

AFH

The CHWs provide community outreach weekly in an effort to educate the community about resources provided through NLM and AFH.  Although the CHWs provide outreach primarily in the Third and Fifth ward communities, their impact is far-reaching within additional communities with a high HIV prevalence as identified by Houston’s local health department.

During the second quarter, AFH recognized a need to create a tiered CHW hiring system, deploying three trained CHWs into the community. During the third quarter, AFH hired and trained two additional CHWs. The tiered start dates helped address identified program challenges and allowed for modifications to the program. This method enabled for the first tier CHWs to provide insight and experiences to the second tier. In the third quarter (April-June), the CHWs identified the importance of building and sustaining relationships to maximize outreach outcomes.  CHWs were able to further bridge opportunities for collaboration while ensuring the community receives AFH and NLM resources by incorporating high schools, universities, after-school programs, local resource fairs and summits into their weekly outreach schedules.

In addition to partnering with The University of Houston Biomedical Science Department, AFH was sought to mentor two students selected by the Albert Schweitzer Fellows Program. The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is dedicated to preparing the next generation of professionals who will serve and empower vulnerable people to live healthier lives and create healthier communities.  Each student will work under the supervision of Site Mentors, Kevin Anderson, Program Manager, and Yolanda Martin, Program Coordinator. The fellow program will dedicate 200 hours to address unmet community health needs. The fellows have chosen to target the same areas that align with Project HELP. They will focus on establishing a mentoring relationship with high school students, who will then disseminate educational information in a curriculum based workshop. The curriculum will feature prevention, biology, and historical materials.  In addition, fellows will utilize NLM and AFH resources as a tool to educate the students. The project will begin in August 2018 and will end August 2019, ensuring a continuance of community enrichment through NLM and AFH resources.

Collaboration is one of the major keys to the success of this program. When people come together to work towards one common goal under one shared vision, it makes a powerful impact in the community.



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