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Multi-Year HIV Prevention Needs Assessment of Massachusetts

Under contract to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), Abt conducts needs assessments for the prevention of HIV in the Commonwealth. Through funding provided under its Cooperative Agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MDPH has brought together a prevention planning group consisting of providers, HIV-positive activists, and other experts in the HIV field to assist MDPH in making resource allocation and other policy decisions.  The needs assessments are commissioned by MDPH with the purpose of informing these decisions. The contract involves carrying out a series of needs assessments that are designed in collaboration with the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention Planning and Evaluation Research of the MDPH and its Community Planning Group.  The studies address the Bureau's concerns regarding epidemiological trends, gaps in services and priority populations.  For example, the first needs assessment focused on two cities outside the Greater Boston area with high HIV prevalence rates and low service utilization.  Abt staff interviewed representatives from community-based organizations to identify gaps in prevention services, as well as successful programs, offered in these two communities.  Particular attention was paid to current prevention efforts targeting specific ethnic and behaviorally defined populations at high risk for HIV infection.  In another needs assessment, Abt researchers designed a study to tap the special issues in presenting prevention messages to young men who have sex with men primarily through a survey of young men from two cities in Massachusetts.  The survey of young men (under age 25) assessed their level of knowledge and risk-taking behavior as related to HIV transmission and helped verify providers' concerns that this group is in need of specialized prevention services.  Qualitative research methods are also utilized in these assessments, as in a case study of peer-driven interventions for young injection drug users, and another study of the cultural influences that infuse the HIV prevention programs tailored to Asian and Pacific Islanders, American Indians (the term of choice in local tribes), or Portuguese-speaking communities in Massachusetts.  More recently, a feasibility study on the collection of electronic client-level data was conducted with Prevention and Education contract managers and providers.  Input was gathered through guided discussion forums on the current data collection system and the feasibility of collecting client-level data electronically.