Dr. Jannette Berkley-Patton

Expert Exchange

UMKC Professor Takes HIV Testing to the Pews

In April, the National Institute of Health granted the University of Missouri Kansas City’s Department of Psychology a 3.2 million dollar grant to scale-up an innovative HIV testing model that saw success in a religiously-sensitive strategy within the Kansas City African American church community.

Entitled “Taking it to the Pews” (TIPs), the project’s three main themes include prevention, compassion, and action. Its goals involve normalizing testing behavior and addressing the stigma to reducing sexual risk behaviors. In addition to leveraging church gatherings, the model incorporates congregation telephone tree messaging systems, educational games, as well as print and video testimonials.

The new NIH funding expands the scope of TIPs over the course of five years to include more churches with a continued focus on monitoring the number of participants tested and measuring stigma.

“It’s been a collaborative effort from the very beginning,” said Dr. Jannette Berkley-Patton, the principal investigator on the project.

Berkley-Patton received her doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of Kansas and began teaching at the University of Missouri Kansas City in 2005. The idea for the TIPs model took shape after she started volunteering with a group called the Black Church Group of Prayer Initiative for the Healing of Aids.

“HIV is one of the biggest health disparities that you’ll find within chronic diseases in this country among ethnic groups,” she said.

According the Center for Disease Control, HIV affects African Americans in the United States more than any other ethnic group. The center also reports that, in 2010, African Americans represent 44 percent of all new reported infections despite only comprising 12 percent of the population.

“The numbers, the data, just cry out that we need to do something different,” remarked Berkley-Patton.

Success of TIPs and Kansas City

Berkley-Patton says the model builds off of a strong history of unity and community action amongst churches and neighborhoods within the area.

“Most of the churches here in Kansas City have community outreach services where they go beyond the pews to provide services to their communities,” she said. “A lot of times community members even walk to the churches to receive those services for free.”

The Kansas City Health Department processes the screenings and returns de-identified data along with a few demographic descriptors – even on Sundays.

“I know some cities that will never have that achieved with their health department,” Berkley-Patton said.

Additional regional collaborators include the KC Care Clinic as well as investigators from Children’s Mercy Hospitals and the RAND Corporation.

Expanding “Taking it to the Pews” to a National Model

Currently, recipients of the information dispersed through the TIPs model are twice as likely to receive HIV screenings as those who do not, according to Berkley-Patton.

The spring of 2015 brings an implementation of the program into several new churches, followed by a secondary wave of expanding the study’s participation in the fall, and the addition of a final grouping the following year. Participants will agree to a 12-month participation period and receive some reimbursement.

“We’ll track about 110 people per church. About 80 percent will be church members and about 20 percent will be the community that they serve through their outreach,” Berkeley-Patton said.

During the process, she also hopes to address some of the lessons learned in the pilot study, provide funding for instructors, and upgrade some of the technologies used.

She commented, “One of our early dreams was that this project would be one of those evidence based interventions that received the gold stamp to be packaged and dispersed throughout the country.”

Twelve additional churches in Montgomery Alabama have already adopted the model, according to the University of Missouri Kansas City.