About Us: History, Mission, and Overview
The Chatham Social Health Council, founded in 1991, is a community based nonprofit organization in the rural North Carolina County of Chatham dedicated to providing HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention education and advocacy. The Council constantly searches for creative ways to accomplish its mission and has had much success with non-traditional approaches.
Due to the rural nature of the County and lack of traditional gathering places (bars, restaurants, etc.), the Council makes the most of nontraditional locations such as churches, barbers and beauticians shops, Latino Groceries (Tiendas), English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and factories. Utilizing these venues to provide skills-building educational sessions on HIV/AIDS and STD infection epidemiology, modes of infection, and prevention methods can lead to behavioral change and the adoption of safer-sex practices.
Much of the Council's creative approach involves building a network of volunteer peer educators, who, by their nature of being insiders to their communities, can help peers understand the risks of unsafe sex, enlighten them as to prevention strategies, and offer referrals for testing and treatment when needed.
By increasing the number of volunteers in the County who can serve as community resources on HIV/AIDS and STD issues, the Council empowers people to depend on one another, instead of upon a single agency.
The Council does not distribute condoms with best wishes for good luck. Skills-building sessions are incorporated into presentations and trainings of peer educators. Participants not only practice how to apply condoms correctly, they role play scenarios where their partners are resistant to condom use, they do exercises on building self esteem so that insisting on condom use becomes an easier task.
The overall goal of all Council programming is to result in long-term behavioral change and the adoption of safer sex practices.