August 28, 2016
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University of Kansas, Peace Corps partner to combat HIV in Africa

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The University of Kansas announced it is partnering with the Peace Corps to provide a custom, web-based resource known as The Community Tool Box to staff and volunteers in Africa who are working to increase health and development and combat HIV/AIDS, according to a press release.

The Community Tool Box first launched at the university in the 1990s as a free online resource delivering evidence-based guidance in best practices for community building. Christina Holt, associate director for Community Tool Box Services at KU Work Group, department of applied behavioral science, Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies, and colleagues trained Peace Corps staff, who piloted their own Peace Corps Community Tool Box training, with 36 Peace Corps volunteers and staff working in 13 countries in Africa most affected by HIV/AIDS.

Under the agreement, the KU Work Group team will adjust resources from the Community Tool Box to fit the needs of the volunteers and staff in Africa to improve overall public health. The Peace Corps Community Tool Box also will include resources developed by the Peace Corps itself, according to the release.

“The Community Tool Box is a public service effort at KU that originated more than 20 years ago from a team of researchers who wanted to provide tools for change and community improvement,” Holt said in the release. “Those tools have grown incredibly in their reach, and now more than 5.8 million people each year use them, including grassroots community organizers, nonprofits, state and local government organizations, and [nongovernmental organizations].”

Holt said in the release that the Peace Corps Community Toolbox will support volunteers with research-based knowledge from disciplines such as community development, urban planning, community health and psychology, but in a “distilled,” practical form that makes best practices easy to implement in the field.

“People go into Peace Corps because they want to make a positive difference in world, but that can be challenging,” Holt said. “So having access to resources in such conditions is helpful for those working to bring about change.”

Andrea DeSantis, of the Peace Corps, said in the release, “Our work in mobilizing communities to action through hands-on, grassroots-driven education and capacity building will be greatly facilitated by this tool, particularly in the work volunteers do in the mitigation of HIV in their communities.”

The Peace Corps hopes the Community Tool Box will help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in many African countries, but mostly Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Peace Corps, that's the world's most affected region, accounting for 70% of new HIV infections as early as 2013.

Disclosure: Infectious Disease News was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.