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R. E. A. L. MEN: an HIV prevention program for fathers and their sons; Emory University.

Community Served: Fathers and sons

The R. E. A. L. MEN (Responsible Empowered Aware Living) project is an HIV-prevention intervention designed for fathers and their sons. The project was implemented as part of a research study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. R.E.A.L. MEN was conducted in collaboration with a community-based youth organization (CBO) located in Atlanta, Georgia. The CBO has 21 sites in the metropolitan area and provides services to youth in predominately urban and lower-income communities. Participants in R.E.A.L. MEN were predominantly African-American.

Fathers and their adolescent sons, 11 to 14 years of age, were invited to participate in the program. Boys were permitted to participate with a male relative or family friend if they did not have an ongoing relationship with their own fathers.

The primary goal of the R.E.A.L. MEN project was to promote the father's involvement in the sexual education of sons. The long-term goal of the project was to contribute to the understanding of the influence fathers have on adolescent boys' sexuality, particularly in regard to abstinence and the acquisition of information about HIV/AIDS.

Fathers and sons were assigned to the HIV intervention group or to a control group. The intervention consisted of seven sessions held once per week. Each session lasted two hours and was conducted at the CBO. Fathers attended the first six sessions, and fathers and sons attended the seventh session together. In Session 1, participants were introduced to the concept of fathers as sex educators and offered ways to establish and maintain communication with their sons. Session 2 was devoted to basic communication skills and in Session 3 fathers learned about adolescent development and how to talk to their sons about puberty, values, and peer pressure. Session 4 focused on the transmission and prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Sessions 5 and 6 were devoted to the task of talking to adolescents about sexuality-related issues and practicing the discussion of difficult topics through role plays. In the final session, sons joined their fathers in a discussion about issues facing adolescents today.

In this session, fathers and sons played the game In the Know. This game was developed by the project staff and is based on the Newlywed Game. Fathers and their sons were given a series of questions relevant to adolescents. Sons were asked to answer the question on their tablet and fathers used a separate tablet to predict their sons' answer. Answers were then shared with each other and the group. Discrepancies in responses generated considerable discussion about adolescent life and raised fathers' awareness of what they didn't know about their sons. Following the discussion, the participants viewed a documentary on adolescent life, which emphasized the fact that parents are not always aware of what their children are doing and the pressures that children face among their peer group.

In order to evaluate the program, all participants completed assessments prior to the intervention, and three, six, and 12 months later. Data from these assessments are currently being used to determine the effect of the intervention on the fathers' confidence and actual discussions of HIV and sex topics with their sons. Data obtained from satisfaction questionnaires indicates the R.E.A.L. MEN project has been well received by the fathers and the CBO. Many fathers noted that the sessions raised awareness of issues that need to be addressed with adolescents and provided skills to facilitate discussions. Many also expressed disappointment that the project only included seven sessions. Plans are underway with the CBO to explore resources to extend the project.

The R.E.A.L Men Project is funded by The National Institute of Mental Health (5 R01 MH5901002).

Contact information: Colleen DiIorio, PhD, RN, Professor, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 404/727-8741, email: cdiiori@sph.emory.edu.
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Title Annotation:Examples from the Field: Culturally Competent Sexuality Education Programs
Publication:SIECUS Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:652
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