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Washington: Project HANDLE Offers Safe Place for Cambodians to Talk About AIDS

October 25, 2007

Each week, Cambodian refugees and Cambodian Americans gather at the nonprofit Neighborhood House in Ranier Vista, where parents and youths teach and celebrate their native language, dance, song, and other arts. Discreetly woven into these activities are HIV/AIDS and substance abuse awareness and prevention messages delivered by Project HANDLE (HIV/AIDS Network Development and Life-Skills Experience).

Cambodia has Asia's fastest-growing HIV/AIDS rate, and Washington state has the third-largest Cambodian refugee population in the United States, said Warya Pothan, director of Project HANDLE. Most of the refugees live in Seattle/King County, she said.

In a 2003 University of Washington survey of Cambodian-American youths involved in local groups, 93 percent reported they did not discuss HIV, STDs, sex or reproductive health problems with their parents. However, about 83 percent were sexually active by age 16, compared with 33 percent of US youths overall.

To date, the project has used more than $1.5 million in multi-year federal grants to offer a range of services, including a peer education program, tutoring, prevention classes for adults and youths, parent training, and job training. In the past three years, the peer education program has taught more than 150 youths how to talk about HIV/AIDS to youth groups and individuals.

In recognition of its successes, the federal government recently awarded Project HANDLE a five-year, $2.5 million grant to expand programming to African Americans and immigrants from East Africa and Vietnam. The project will be able to offer HIV testing, counseling, and referrals for substance abuse and mental health issues.

"There really isn't a lot of HIV testing and counseling for these populations," said Pothan. "We want them to have stability and connect with their culture and learn life-saving information at the same time."

Back to other news for October 2007

Adapted from:
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
10.14.2007; Cherie Black

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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