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Community Approaches to Reducing STDs – CARS Buffalo

Through the CARS Buffalo project, CAI, in partnership with the Erie County New York Department of Health, established a sustainable, community-led initiative that addressed STI disparities and social determinants of health among the city of Buffalo’s adolescents and young adults.

This initiative relied on young adults’ drive and expertise to build their capacity and create new authentic strategies that promoted STI program successes. The community engagement effort was so successful and well received that when the funding for the project ended, community members stepped up to continue the work. They continue to lead the effort to this day.


Pop n’ Play videos

Pop ‘N Play: A Sex Positive Event was a three-hour community-level intervention (delivered in one session) designed by Black/African American straight and LGBTQ+ identifying young adults for Black/African American straight and LGBTQ+ identifying young adults.

The event was held four times per year around the city of Buffalo as a “pop up” event; its purpose was to increase access to STI screening, knowledge of STI prevention, and normalization of sexual health and identities.

Community Needs Assessment

CAI recruited and convened a community advisory board (CAB) with nine African American straight and LGBTQ+ identifying adolescents, ages 18-24, to utilize a community-based participatory research approach to identify community-driven solutions that address social determinants of health in their community.

The community advisory board implemented this community needs assessment from February-May 2018.

The participants were young people, Black/African American, and LGBTQ+ populations are at highest risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Buffalo, NY.

The process

CAI and Via Evaluation provided training and support to build the skills and self-efficacy of community advisory board members to conduct the needs assessment.

Topics covered in trainings

  • The socio-ecological model
  • Research ethics and skills, such as using open-ended questions and explaining consent to participants
  • Community-based participatory research methods:
    • Community Café facilitation
    • Community mapping
    • Focus groups
    • Videography sessions
    • Interviews

Questions included in needs assessment

The advisory board developed research questions and planned and collected data. The questions included:

  • What is causing high STI rates in our community?
  • What are the sexual health stigmas in our community?
  • What does the community know about STIs?

The community advisory board members enjoyed the experience, and many stated that implementing the needs assessment was one of the most memorable and important project experiences during the first year of the project.

Needs assessment results

Through the needs assessment, the advisory board reached 42 individuals (52% were young people):

  • Students
  • Parents
  • Policymakers
  • Healthcare providers

And implemented 13 activities:

  • 1 community café
  • 2 community-mapping sessions
  • 2 focus groups
  • 2 videography sessions
  • 6 interviews

Key findings revealed gaps in STI awareness and knowledge in the community, including inconsistent information; lack of sexual health champions; feelings of being disconnected to healthcare due to limited access, misinformation, and stigma.

See a visual breakdown of the community needs assessment results (2 MB PDF).