Service grant to address HIV, substance abuse
by Mary Helen Yarborough
A $1.68 million service grant awarded to MUSC will be used to address a
high rate of HIV and substance abuse among African-American adolescents
in the Lowcountry.
The five-year grant, which will establish the Charleston County Teen
and Family Ethnic Minority Program-Outreach and Web-based Education for
Risk Reduction (EMPOWERR Program), was awarded Sept. 30 to the
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences by the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration (SAMHSA). It was one of numerous grants awarded
across the country, which focuses on using SAMHSA’s Strategic
Prevention Framework, a prevention process based on community needs to
build substance abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention capacity for
traditionally underserved communities.
MUSC’s application focused on African-American adolescents (age 12-17),
because the rate of HIV/AIDS among African-Americans in Charleston
County is more than four times the baseline required to qualify for the
grant, and the HIV/AIDS rate among youth in Charleston County has
continued to rise over the years.
“We have a very high rate of HIV here, according to the South Carolina
Department of Health and Environmental Control,” said Carla Kmett
Danielson, Ph.D., the principal investigator and EMPOWERR Program
director. “We needed a minimum ratio of 10 per 100,000 HIV/AIDS cases
to apply for the grant.
Among metropolitan areas, HIV/AIDS cases in Charleston-North Charleston
rank 29th in the nation. Charleston County has a 43.6 per 100,000 rate
overall among African-Americans. Further, youth aged 13-19 years have
shown consistent increases in HIV/AIDS rates in Charleston County
between 1997 (3.6 per 100,000 at that time) and 2005 (12.9 per 100,000).
The impetus of the program is to identify and reduce the onset of
substance abuse and the transmission of HIV/AIDS in conjunction with
community-level public and private entities.
“The primary goal of the grant is to bring empirically-supported HIV
and substance abuse prevention services to the African-American youth
in Charleston County,” said Danielson.
Danielson will lead the EMPOWERR program team, which will consist of
multiple MUSC co-investigators. These co-investigators include Michael
de Arellano, Ph.D., Alyssa Rheingold, Ph.D., Ken Ruggiero, Ph.D., and
Benjamin Saunders, Ph.D., from the National Crime Victims Research
& Treatment Center (NCVRTC); Janice Key, M.D., director of
adolescent medicine. Co-investigators Alesia Hawkins, Ph.D., and Marty
Strachan, Ph.D., NCVRTC postdoctoral fellows, will serve as liaisons
between the adolescents and families served by the program and its
A workgroup for the program will draw upon the HIV and substance abuse
prevention expertise of numerous community partners and consultants,
including Jacob White, M.D., deputy director of the S.C. HIV/AIDS
Two other primary community partners for the program will include
Lowcountry AIDS services and the Charleston County Department of
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services (Charleston Center).
The first phase of the program will include a community needs
assessment to identify the affected teens, their caregivers and
Danielson said that once a needs assessment is completed, the study
will adapt empirically-based interventional strategies, including
Sisters Informing Healing, Living and Empowering; Be Proud, Be
Responsible for Young Men; and Family Matters, for the local African-
American teen population to be offered through community-based and
Other services will include case management to provide support to the
teens and their families. Information tools teens could easily access
are being developed, including a Web site, and various audio/visual
recording devices that would help ensure privacy for the teen. A
hotline also will be available for teens and parents to call for
information on HIV/AIDS and help obtaining information on testing,
referrals and transportation.
“The goal has to be prevention; preventing the spread of the disease,”
Danielson said. “We will act as a triage to make sure those youth
affected get treated.”
Nov. 21, 2008