Peer Health Orientation

A peer facilitated intervention for incoming inmates reaches approximately 12,000 new inmates per year. As new inmates arrive at the Reception Center of the prison, small groups are escorted to the Health Orientation classroom for the educational intervention. This class was instituted when inmate focus groups stressed the need for HIV prevention education at prison entry. The warden mandated the program in 1991 for all new inmates and a classroom is provided for the program.

The purpose of the program is to increase awareness of risk factors among new inmates, personalize risk, increase risk perception, and reduce the risk of HIV, STDs, hepatitis and tuberculosis in prison and after release.

Inmate Peer Health Educators deliver the educational presentation, document the attendance and maintain the classroom and materials. A bilingual/bicultural Spanish speaking inmate peer educator is available to meet with monolingual Spanish speakers. This program was formally evaluated and peer educators were found to be as effective as a professional HIV educator. We also found that inmates preferred peer educators. (Grinstead O, Faigeles B, Zack B. The effectiveness of peer HIV education for male inmates entering state prison.Journal of Health Education, 1997, Vol. 28, p. S31-S37)

Health Orientation Class Outline

  1. Introduction and peer educators’ personal stories about the impact of HIV
  2. Modes of transmission: the four body fluids, sexual transmission, transmission by needle sharing
  3. Review safer sex and injecting practices
  4. The role of alcohol and drugs in HIV transmission and prevention
  5. Testing for HIV in prison and in the community
  6. Other health concerns: STDs, hepatitis, tuberculosis

Immediately following the Health Orientation class, all participants are offered voluntary HIV testing. Approximately 50% of class participants voluntarily sign up for HIV and Hepatitis testing.

Last modified: February 7, 2011