Sisterline is a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-funded substance use and HIV prevention program serving adult African-American women living in Dayton, Ohio’s public housing neighborhoods. Sisterline delivers the evidence-based SISTA group intervention (Sisters Informing Sisters about Topics on AIDS) to target HIV risk perception and condom negotiation skills and provides up to four weeks of individual motivational interviewing services to develop goal-setting skills and address substance use/abuse. Consumers have exhibited an enthusiastic response to the culturally-appropriate SISTA intervention and delivery of services within the neighborhoods themselves, appreciating that Sisterline staff meets consumers “where they are” both figuratively and literally.
Partnering with the Dayton Metropolitan Housing Authority (DMHA) and Public Health—Dayton and Montgomery County (Public Health) was key to Sisterline’s development, and the program continues to benefit from these stakeholders’ “consumer-first” approach. Public Health supports outreach and recruitment activities by providing HIV testing at our large neighborhood events, and a representative serves on our community advisory board. DMHA provides no-cost confidential space in each public housing complex for recruiting events and group interventions, as well as individual motivational interviewing sessions. DMHA site managers serve on our community advisory board, helped us to recruit the initial Sisterline Lay Health Advisors by recommending respected members of their communities, and often assist follow-up staff in locating individuals with outdated contact information.
We also offer a series of four “booster” exercises using Dr. Hill Harper’s popular book Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny. The group discussion format capitalizes on the energy that Sisterline consumers exhibit in the SISTA interventions and uses selected chapters from the book to open discussions of personal and social issues important to African-American women and that reinforce material covered by SISTA, including risks of alcohol and other drug use/abuse. Women who attend the full series of four book club sessions receive a complimentary copy of the book.