The Ovahness Leadership Program works on the community building and community capacity components of the Community Organization and Community Building theory (Minkler, Wallerstein & Wilson, 2008). ReachLA staff train members of the ball community to operate as peer health educators they call peer leaders. This leadership training empowers the peer leaders, to act as a voice for their community, promote change within the community, and offer support and advice for other members of the community. The peer leaders come together at a leadership summit to discuss goals for the next year, including events to plan, as well as goals reached or failed to reach for the present year.
The Ovahness Ball is an event put on by ReachLA that uses the peer leaders, as well as the ReachLA staff, to design a fashion and visual arts competition for the ball community. The ball increases the social capital component of the Community Organization and Community Building theory by creating an environment where members of the community can interact and build relationships. The Ovahness ball creates solidarity based on maintaining safe and healthy behavioral choices by creating an environment where responsible sexual practices are status quo. This event is attended by many members of the community and always carries a safe sex theme.
I am proposing a program for ReachLA based on the Social Cognitive Theory called Peer Mentoring. This program will still be targeted at the ball community in and around central Los Angeles and will act as an expansion to the Ovahness program. The program’s goal is to increase the practice of responsible sexual behavior by members of the ball community by increasing safer sex practices and testing regularly for HIV/AIDS working on Bandera’s assumption that to achieve positive self-directed change, people need not only reasons to change unhealthy behavior but also the behavioral means, social support, and resources to make the change (Bandera, 1994).
The program start with an informational session using the existing peer educators acting as one-on-one peer mentors providing information on HIV/AIDS including risks and benefits of condom use as an HIV/AIDS preventative strategy as well as reasons why to test regularly for HIV/AIDS infections. All peer mentors will be paid a salary to increase mentor retention rates and in turn reduce training costs. The peer mentor will work with the individual to promote the outcome expectation that by using a condom every time you have sexual intercourse you are significantly reducing the risk of HIV/AIDS as well as promoting the outcome expectation that by testing regularly for HIV/AIDS, and making sure your partner is regularly getting tested for HIV/AIDS, you are reducing the likelihood of spreading an HIV/AIDS infection to others if you happen to become, or already are, infected. This informational session will be used to explain the problem (HIV/AIDS infection) and how by using viable preventative measure (condom use and regular HIV/AIDS testing) the expected outcome will be positive (reduced risk of contracting HIV/AIDS).
The peer mentors will be people from the ball community who currently practice safe sexual behavior and are regularly getting tested for HIV/AIDS that will act as role models, people who are in control of their sexual health while still being active in ball culture. The mentor will practice social modeling by demonstrating proper condom application on an inanimate object such as a piece of fruit or synthetic replica of male reproductive organs as well as having the individual perform the action himself until he has obtained mastery experience. In addition to the condom demonstration the mentor will ask the individual to remember any past experiences when the individual was either reluctant to, or unable to, convince their partner to use a condom or get an HIV test. The mentor will go over his past experiences explaining situation in which he was in a similar situation and solutions he had for those situations. The mentor and the individual will then go over solutions to those problems and role play them together until the individual is confident that he will be able to perform the behavior under any circumstance gaining mastery experience and increasing the individual’s self-efficacy regarding performing responsible sexual behavior. By taking this approach the mentor is focusing on increasing the individual’s self-efficacy by social modeling and mastery experience.
The mentor and the individual will come up with a list of goals and a plan to regulate success of the goal. A sample goal would be to get an HIV test every six months and a plan would be to mark a date six months from their most recent test in an organizer, on a calendar, notification on their cell phone or personal computer, and another notification 30 days later to acknowledge completion of the test. This will give the individual the skills and motivation for self regulation of their own goals and accomplishments, or failures, without relying on anyone else. In addition to building self-efficacy and self-regulation skills the mentor will also be part of the facilitation process.
During the facilitation process the peer mentor will provide free condoms and inform the individual of how and where to obtain free HIV/AIDS tests. If the individual is for some reason unable to get to an HIV testing site because of lack of transportation the peer mentor will arrange to transport the individual to and from the testing site. The peer mentor will reimbursed for driving expenses and is on salary making the usage of the peer mentors as a means of transportation in this case very feasible. To motivate the individual to get HIV the use of incentive motivation by way of extrinsic rewards will also be used. The individual will receive one free ticket to the annual Ovahness ball for every annual test. Because the Ovahness ball is a large event in the ball community it is likely that the individual would want to attend so providing a free ticket to the event for getting tested will only increase the individual’s likelihood of getting tested.
The peer mentor program and the Ovahness program are similar in some respects but also very different. Both programs are targeted towards members of the ball community with the overall goal of reducing HIV/AIDS incidence in that community however the approaches are different. The Ovahness program works on the community level with ReachLA providing resources and training for members of the community to make their own changes within the community while the peer mentoring program works on the individual level initiating change within the person. An example of this is how the Ovahness program has a summit where members of the community get together to set group goals about what needs attention in their community while the peer mentoring program uses one-on-one mentoring to address the individual’s issues.
Another similarity is the use of the Ovahness ball as an incentive to get tested for HIV/AIDS. In the Ovahness program free tickets are given to anyone who gets an HIV/AIDS test and the same is done for the peer mentor program; however in the peer mentor program the free ball ticket is incentive motivation towards accomplishing a personal goal of getting tested regularly while in the Ovahness program free ball tickets are an incentive motivation aimed towards individuals in the community who are unable to afford the cost of the ticket and are simply getting tested to be able to attend the ball. All though the outcome of getting tested is the same the programs are targeting two differently motivated individuals from the target audience.
Both the Ovahness program and the peer mentor program enlist the help of individuals from the community. In the Ovahness program member of the ball community are recruited and trained to act as a voice for their community and to create events to promote a safer sex message as well as pool social capital to make changes in the community while in the peer mentor program members of the ball community are recruited and trained to act as one-on-one mentors empowering individuals to make changes in their own behavior. In the peer mentoring program the mentors use social modeling to increase the self-efficacy of the individual with relation to changing personal behavior while there is no social modeling component to the Ovahness program. The peer leaders in the Ovahness program are working to make changes within the community to create an environment where healthy sexual behavior is status quo where the peer mentors are looking to change individuals within the community using strategies from Bandera’s social cognitive theory.
Another difference would be the peer mentor program’s self regulation component based on the self regulation construct of the Social Cognitive Theory (Bandera, 1994). In the peer mentor program mentors teach the individuals self regulation techniques to keep track of their progress on reaching personal goals while the Ovahness program uses the summit to regulate the goals of the group. The Self-efficacy component is also different in that the peer mentors work with the individual to increase self efficacy and individual empowerment while in the Ovahness program the closest similarity would be the collective efficacy component where group accomplishments increase the overall feeling of empowerment.
The peer mentor program will be a great way to pick up where the Ovahness program left off. The Ovahness program works based on the Organization and Community Building theory where change is made to the community to motivate and enable individuals to make behavioral changes (Minkler, Wallerstein & Wilson, 2008) where the peer mentor program works on the Social Cognitive Theory where the individual is targeted for change (Bandera, 1994). Going back to the assumption that to achieve positive self-directed change, people need not only reasons to change unhealthy behavior but also the behavioral means, social support, and resources to make the change, while the Ovahness program seeks to make changes in the community to make resources available to the community the peer mentor program empowers the individual to take advantage of those resources. The peer mentor program also provides the need social support by use of one-on-one mentoring sessions. The peer mentor program should be a welcome addition to ReachLA and a great benefit to the ball community of Los Angeles. It will pick up where the Ovahness program left off and increase healthy sexual behavior within members of the community without making large changes to how ReachLA operates.