Peer education program has many success stories

Here are some examples

The peer education and skills training program at AIDS Service Center (ASC) in New York, NY, has helped to change the lives of many people living with HIV infection.

Here are a few stories about its successes:

Welfare to work: One woman in her 50s attended a weekly HIV education group because she received a metro transportation card as an incentive, notes Sharen Duke, MPH, chief executive officer of AIDS Service Center.

"She liked what she was hearing, and so she started to attend the group sessions because she wanted to do what the peer educator was doing," Duke adds. "The peer educator said, 'I'll introduce you to the peer training program,' and so she went with him, went through the intern program, and graduated."

After graduating, the woman became a stipend peer educator. Then ASC helped her with a welfare-to-work job placement by teaching her how to improve her resume, interviewing skills, and how to dress for job interviews, Duke says.

"And she got a job at another local organization that primarily is a homeless outreach program," Duke says. "She worked there fulltime and then went back to college while working and is working on her bachelor's degree."

Peers to professionals: Many of ASC's success stories begin and end with the agency since peers can become fulltime professional staff if they work hard enough.

One fulltime employee who provides HIV counseling and testing and connects clients to medical care and other services began as a peer educator, Duke says.

"Another man who is a graduate of our program has been working here for more than six years, and another woman, who started as a client, has been with the agency for nine years, and is now the coordinator of intake services," Duke says.

"All of these people made truly transformational changes in their lives," Duke says.

"They go out into the community and touch so many other lives, showing them the possibilities that are there," Duke adds. "And so they begin the process of awareness of risk and motivation toward positive change and understanding."

About 75% of peer educators either go back to school or volunteer at ASC or another agency, Duke says.

"It doesn't always translate into fulltime jobs, but there is a need for peer educators, so we place our peers into other organizations," she adds.