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.
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
Akil Pierre, MPH
Health Promotion Service Systems
Public Health Management Corporation
260 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102-5085
- 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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