Promoting Adolescent Sexual health and Safety (PASS) in Washington, DC

Funded by The Kellogg Foundation and NIMHD (Grant # 1R24MD008064-01)
PI: Jay Silverman (in collaboration with Dr. Sue Popkin of the Urban Institute

A coercive sexual environment (CSE), i.e., one promoting an atmosphere rife with sexual threats and pressures, is a neighborhood-level threat that appears to play a critical role in the lives of poor adolescent girls. To date, there has been little exploration of the connection between chronic threats to female ‘sexual safety’ and youth development. Further, no attempts have been made to alter neighborhood physical and social structures that promote CSE.
Partnering with the Urban Institute (Susan Popkin, PI) we are collaborating with DC Housing Authority, African-American residents of Benning Terrace (a public housing community located in Ward 7 of the District), and community-based health, social service and faith-based organizations to develop, implement and evaluate programs to alter neighborhood factors that create CSE in order to reduce the high rates of sexual assault, STI/HIV and teen pregnancy among girls 9-18 years old living in public housing. Another major reason to target CSE is prevention of HIV infection. The African-American community in DC suffers from the highest HIV rates in the country, with 3% of all individuals infected (a higher prevalence than in Haiti); nationally, 2 out of 3 adolescent girls diagnosed with HIV are black. The PASS initiative is co-funded by the NIMHD and the Kellogg Foundation, and will use community-based participatory methods to develop and evaluate an evidence-based service model to address CSE and improve health and social outcomes for adolescent girls living in public housing.

The project involves:

  1. Establishing a Community Advisory Board (CAB) and Youth Community Advisory Board (YCAB) to guide the project’s planning, outreach, dissemination, and evaluation efforts
  2. Working with housing officials and residents to develop a community needs assessment related to sexual safety and health (CSE, HIV/STI and pregnancy) of girls aged 9-18
  3. Collaboratively designing comprehensive intervention and service models using CBPR principles in order to target adolescent girls and, separately, adolescent boys and young men to reduce CSE
  4. Designing services for parents/adults in households with adolescents to further promote individual and neighborhood changes
  5. Implementing these programs in Benning Terrace in collaboration with community partners
  6. Conducting a rigorous evaluation to assess success of the PASS model