Community Approaches to Reducing Sexually Transmitted Infections in Jackson, Mississippi (CARS JXN)

Summary: This project engages community members and stakeholders in Jackson, Mississippi, to address STI disparities and social determinants of health among African American/ Black young adults, ages 21-27, in the city.

Opportunity: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a serious public health concern in Mississippi. The state suffers from the nation’s highest rate of gonorrhea and the third-highest rates of chlamydia and syphilis. Black people in their 20s account for a majority of STI cases in the state. CAI understands that engaging and empowering communities is critical for addressing disparities and improving health outcomes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized that community engagement improves the effectiveness of public health programs and can help ensure that they are sustainable.

Initiative: CARS JXN is an initiative to help create a strong, sustainable, community-led effort to reduce STI infections. The core of this project is a community advisory board (CAB) composed of African American/Black Jackson residents, ages 21-27. With CAI’s guidance and support, the CAB works with other Jackson stakeholders to support the planning, implementation, and evaluation of an STI-focused intervention. This process begins with CAI providing training to the CAB on principles of research and evaluation, so the CAB can then conduct a community needs assessment to identify social issues (such as stigma) that contribute to STI disparities. The CAB then analyzes findings from the needs assessment to better understand the community’s specific roadblocks to health equity. Finally, CAI and the CAB will design and then implement an intervention that addresses the challenges that have been brought to light. This process of authentically engaging the community ensures that the resulting intervention is crafted and led entirely by community members, which helps instill a sense of ownership in community health.

Impact: This is a three-year initiative that began in 2020. Within the first year, we have recruited the CAB and convened multiple meetings; devised and administered a community needs assessment that answered research questions crafted by the CAB; and designed a marketing campaign to push back on the stigma and shame that is sometimes associated with STI screening. In the coming years, this project aims to increase STI screening, decrease stigma, and increase awareness of testing and treatment among African-American/Black young adults.

Project funder and key partners: This program is funded by the CDC Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

Project website: CDC Community Approaches to Reducing Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Project contact: Maisha Drayton, Director, Division of Community Engagement: carsjxn.contact@caiglobal.org.