Peer health ambassador project for incarcerated men receives $1.3m funding

A peer health ambassador project for incarcerated men co-developed by the Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education (CCPHE) has received $1.3 million in government funding.

The Public Health Agency of Canada awarded $1.3 million over five years to the project, run by CCPHE and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). Funded through the HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund, the organizations will develop an approach to preventing HIV, hepatitis C and related sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections among federally incarcerated men in two BC institutions.

The project will train and support up to 24 peer health ambassadors who will work with fellow federally incarcerated men to reduce the risks associated with sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections through regular workshops. Results and tools of the project will be shared with Correctional Service Canada.

Professor Mieke Koehoorn

CCPHE project manager Debra Hanberg

People living in or recently released from correctional facilities are among some of the groups most affected by HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

CCPHE director and School of Population and Public Health Clinical Professor Dr. Ruth Elwood Martin (pictured above) said that CCPHE was grateful to the Public Health Agency of Canada for supporting the project and recognizing the value of working with incarcerated men to develop and deliver health education programs in correctional facilities.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Correctional Service Canada, the peer health ambassadors and community partners to enhance the personal and community health of incarcerated individuals.”
CCPHE director and School of Population and Public Health Clinical Professor Dr. Ruth Elwood Martin

CCPHE project manager Debra Hanberg said the team aimed to start training of the peer health ambassadors in the first half of this year. Peer health ambassadors will work with the project team to develop written and visual educational materials that are informed by the current knowledge and experiences of the men inside the correctional facility and then co-deliver the workshops.

“We hope this collaboration will make the educational material and subsequent workshops more relevant to other incarcerated men participating in the program.”
CCPHE project manager Debra Hanberg

Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in a January release the government was committed to eliminating AIDS as a global public health threat. “Support for important projects like the one being put in place by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and the University of British Columbia reflects our renewed focus on evidence-based interventions that will support the prevention of new infections and reduce the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS.”

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