California: Success Seen in Program to Cut Teen HIV/AIDS Cases

The "From High Risk to Mainstream" program takes young people following a path of dangerous behaviors and redirects them through peer-to-peer education and support.

During the last three years, the HIV/AIDS service organization Working Wonders has sponsored the program for about 200 youths referred by the probation department or truancy officers. The classes are held at the Boys & Girls Club of Cathedral City.

Working Wonders CEO Evelyn Hernandez Valentino said the recidivism rate for teens who have completed the program is less than 1 percent. Classes illustrate the consequences of teens' actions. "They see that if you choose to do A, B, or C then D, E or F happens," said Valentino. Topics covered include self-esteem, domestic violence, and substance abuse -- all of which are relevant to HIV prevention.

Scott Robinson, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club, said hosting the classes there also offers the youths some positive, age-appropriate services they may not have had access to previously. "The kids participating in this program have committed some sort of an offense, more of a criminal offense, and normally wouldn't participate in [the] Boys & Girls Club, which is more of a prevention model," he said.

For more information on Working Wonders, visit www.ww4u.org.