Breathe DC

Effi Barry Grant Program: Our HIV & Tobacco Education Project

A close up of a cigarette with smoke coming out


The HIV and Tobacco Education Program, funded by the Effi Barry Grant Program, is a partnership between Breathe DC and Damien Ministries to provide health education and raise awareness of tobacco effects on people living with HIV/AIDS. The program is funded by a DC Department of Health Effi Barry HIV-AIDS Grant, and targets communities in Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, DC.

Background:  The District of Columbia has the highest rate of HIV infection in the nation, with one in 20 residents testing positive for HIV. Tobacco use greatly impairs the ability of the immune system to function properly and the ability of HIV medications to be properly absorbed. It has been determined that tobacco use prevalence among persons living with HIV can be as high as 60 to 70%.

To address tobacco use among people living with HIV/AIDS, Breathe DC partnered with Damien Ministries, a community-based organization with over 25 years of experience working with persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs). The Damien Ministries team has successfully provided service and support to more than 2,000 people in the target population through case management, food bank services, housing and faith-based services. Damien Ministries actively works with more than two dozen community-based organizations to connect its clients to services such as primary medical care, oral health care, substance abuse services, mental health services, and other social services. The majority of their case management clients, approximately 75%, are residents of Wards 7 and 8.

The District of Columbia has the highest rate of HIV infection in the nation, with one in 20 residents testing positive for HIV

Program Goals and Outcomes: During the grant period, Damien Ministries case managers were trained by a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist on how to advise clients on smoking cessation, and to provide information and referrals for further help with client decisions to quit smoking. To increase the knowledge of the effect of tobacco and HIV with clients, education trainings were provided to clients and their feedback on the sessions was collected to assist Breathe DC with making any training improvements. Focus groups were conducted to gather client input and ideas on messaging that would be effective for the targeted audience of smokers who are also HIV positive. All engagements with clients during the program period provided further referral for HIV testing and linkage to care. The results and information gathered throughout the grant period will guide Breathe DC with the development of an HIV and tobacco outreach and education campaign and with future plans for a sustainable program with a broader geographical service area.

On average, approximately 20% of adults use tobacco, but tobacco use prevalence in the HIV community can be as high as 70%.

Given the serious impact that tobacco use can have on HIV treatments in particular, the HIV and Tobacco Workgroup convened by Breathe DC is establishing a public education campaign to raise awareness among those living with HIV/AIDS about how tobacco use negatively impacts overall health outcomes, and specifically outcomes associated with HIV treatment.

The HIV and Tobacco Workgroup established the following objectives:

Objective 1:  To conduct research to determine and refine messages and implement elements of an anti-tobacco education program geared towards the HIV community.

Objective 2:  To discover motivating factors to quit and to remain a non-smoker.

Objective 3:  To discover salient messages and channels for awareness and education campaign targeted to smokers who are also HIV positive.

Objective 4: To discover which media channels would be most effective.

Objective 5:  To establish a system to integrate tobacco use prevention and cessation efforts with HIV treatment.

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