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HIV in the US

PALMS Project:
Preventing AIDS Through Live Movement and Sound


Since 1993, the PALMS Project has provided HIV prevention intervention to high-risk, hard-to-reach, minority adolescents. Using an innovative theater-based, interactive, peer-driven approach, PALMS provides multi-session, group-level intervention, with separate groups for males and females. PALMS seeks to provide messages to reduce risky sexual behavior, increase self-efficacy to practice safer sex, and empower adolescents to protect their sexual health. Since 2008, the PALMS Project has partnered with the Dept. of Public Health's High School STD Screening Program and the Women’s Anonymous Test Site to offer participants on-site screening, referral, and treatment services for Chlamydia and gonorrhea and counseling, HIV/STD testing and referral services.

Target Population
PALMS is a program of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC), a non-profit, public health institute that has been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS since 1987. PALMS has been implemented in a variety of settings, including schools, community centers, juvenile justice facilities and drug treatment centers. It is currently conducted at four E3 Centers and The Bridge. E3 (Education, Employment, Empowerment) Centers are community-based social service centers serving out-of-school and/or court-involved youth (primarily African-Americans), by providing education, life skills, and job readiness training. The Bridge is a residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment program for males aged 15-19. PALMS currently provides the three-session intervention to approximately 250 adolescents per year.

Traditional youth-oriented HIV prevention programs often fail to teach practical skills to lower HIV risk or to actively engage participants. The PALMS Project uses the dynamic combination of real-life dramatic presentations, highly interactive activities, and peer modeling to engage adolescents who are often uninterested in mainstream HIV prevention messages.

The PALMS Project’s innovative approach includes:
1) Theater-based strategies using popular culture elements to capture high-risk, minority adolescents’ interest;
2) Peer actors who model appropriate behavior;
3) Opportunities to actively participate in problem-solving and practice skills;
4) Intervention content that can be implemented in a variety of community settings.

Each PALMS group-level intervention combines a dramatic performance with additional intervention activities. The three group sessions each last approximately two hours, with 8 to 15 participants. Each intervention session is led by the Group Leader, assisted by two co-facilitators. Referrals to appropriate services within the HIV continuum of prevention and care are provided.

Outcomes & Evaluation
In 1999, the CDC chose the PALMS Project as one of nine Reputationally Strong Programs (C-RSP) Projects to serve as a model in designing and developing HIV prevention programs. In 2004, the CDC chose PALMS for a rigorous evaluation that used a non-randomized concurrent comparison group design; 289 youth (predominantly males aged 12-18 from two juvenile justice facilities) were enrolled.

According to published evaluation: “At 6-month follow-up, PALMS participants demonstrated greater increases in HIV and condom use knowledge and improved attitudes toward HIV testing and toward persons living with HIV/AIDS than did those in the comparison condition. PALMS participants were also significantly more likely to use a condom during their last sexual contact with a non-main female partner than comparison participants. This theater-based HIV prevention intervention is a potential resource for changing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of adolescents in juvenile justice settings and other high-risk youth populations.”

More Information
Akil Pierre, MPH
Project Director
Health Promotion Service Systems
Public Health Management Corporation
260 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102-5085
Email: akil@phmc.org
Phone: 215-731-2021

Related Links

  • For more information, see on the evaluation, see Lauby, et al., “Preventing AIDS through Live Movement and Sound: Efficacy of the theater-based HIV prevention intervention delivered to male adolescents in juvenile justice settings,” AIDS Education and Prevention 2010; 22(5): 402-416.
  • The “Evaluation of the Preventing AIDS Through Live Movement and Sound (PALMS) Intervention for Minority Adolescents” is available online at

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