The University of Arizona

Grants to Aid UA Researchers in Curbing Diseases Among Hispanic Women/Youth

By Jeff Harrison, October 17, 2002

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded two researchers from the Southwest Institute for Research on Women at the University of Arizona grants totaling nearly $5 million. The two programs these grants will fund will expand health programs for low-income women and adolescents, primarily to help these groups avoid AIDS, HIV and several other diseases related to drug use.

Mujer Sana/Healthy Women

"Mujer Sana/Healthy Women" will target 1,200 women in residential drug treatment programs in Pima County. Most of the women are Hispanic, and most of those are from Mexico and have children or are pregnant, says Rosi Andrade, the principal investigator of the grant. These women also are economically disenfranchised and have extensive histories of drug use, as well as risky drug and sexual behaviors.

Andrade says Mujer Sana is about educating women precisely how drug use and sexual activity are linked to HIV and a range of other serious, and potentially fatal, diseases like tuberculosis and hepatitis. The program also will help women address the women's understanding of their culture, gender roles and personal relationships, and how to negotiate safe sex with their partners.
SAMHSA has funded Mujer Sana for five years and $2.4 million through the Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) at the University of Arizona. The SIROW Community Outreach Project on AIDS in Southern Arizona (COPASA) will collaborate with Amity's Circle Tree Ranch, CODAC's Las Amigas and Las Hermanas programs, Haven's Mother and Child Program and the Pima County Health Department.

Andrade says these are difficult problems for these women, who come to these and other UA outreach programs and are often surprised to find that they are not alone with their problems. She says this includes support networks with other women who can help them, and reading programs where women delve into the literature of women who have written about these issues.

Conexiones Sana/Healthy Connections

SAMHSA also has awared $2.4 million over five years to Sally Stevens, the principal investigator for "Conexiones Sana/Healthy Connections." The program has similar goals as Mujer Sanas, only for young Hispanics in Maricopa County.

Under the grant, the UA's Service Research Office (SRO) will work with an adolescent drug treatment provider, Emergency Mobil Pediatric and Crisis Team - Suicide Prevention, and the Maricopa County Health Department to enhance two programs - the Teen Substance Abuse Treatment Program and the Drug Diversion Program.

Conexiones Sanas will enroll close to a thousand young people, most of whom are ethnic minorities (mostly Hispanics from Mexico) from low-income, single-parent families, especially families where problems with alcohol and drug use within the home are commonly reported.

Like Mujer Sanas, this program aims to educate young people about anatomy, and how sex and drug use can foster HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis and other infectious diseases. The program also helps them view these issues through their culture, helping them understand how childhood experiences, family dynamics, gender roles and relationships with their friends all influence health-related risk behavior.

Stevens says this is an opportunity to expand the kinds of services that have been available for Pima County youngsters into Maricopa County. She says young people in the target group have their own set of particularly difficult problems to deal with, such as school and families where drug use and sexual behaviors are persistent.