Psychology in Action

APA Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer Program Reaches Out to Community Organizations in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The BSSV Program assists HIV prevention efforts by helping communities adapt, implement, and evaluate prevention strategies and behavioral interventions.

By Edna Davis-Brown, MPH, BSSV Program Director, APA Public Interest Directorate

Dr. Javier Parga discussing an intervention model with staff from Helping Others in a Positive Environment (HOPE) in St. Thomas.During the week of September 12-16, 2011, APA’s Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) Program hosted two capacity-building assistance activities in the U.S. Virgin Islands. These activities included a half-day seminar providing HIV prevention services and evidenced-based interventions for community-based organizations on the islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas. The seminar included program evaluation and monitoring; needs assessments; and planning, implementing, and adapting evidence-based HIV/AIDS interventions for new settings and populations. Also discussed was the integration of mental health and substance abuse services into HIV prevention. In addition to hosting this seminar, the BSSV program offered more intensive capacity-building assistance for individual staff members who requested assistance.

The full-day seminars were facilitated by two of the BSSV program volunteers: Dr. Tamarah Moss-Knight of Miami, Florida and Dr. Javier Parga of Puerto Rico. Following these seminars, Drs. Moss-Knight and Parga also provided technical assistance to the Virgin Islands Community AIDS Resource & Education Inc. (VICARE) on the island of St. Croix. This support focused on developing a needs assessment tool for the organization to better clarify the problems it encounters and identify appropriate interventions. On the island of St. Thomas, Drs. Moss-Knight and Parga also provided support to Helping Others in a Positive Environment (HOPE), assisting them in adapting evidenced-based interventions for the area.

Dr. Tamarah Moss-Knight reviewing program monitoring and evaluation with CBA Institute participants in St. Thomas.The BSSV program is a national HIV prevention initiative directed by the APA Office on AIDS. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this program has recruited, trained, and mobilized a network of behavioral and social science volunteers to provide ongoing and no-cost capacity-building assistance to community-based organizations that want to implement cutting edge prevention strategies within their communities. There are over 300 behavioral scientists across the United States and U.S. Territories who volunteer for this program—including psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, public health experts, and social workers. These volunteers have committed their time and skills to delivering localized technical assistance.

The goal of the BSSV Program services is to improve the ability of community organizations to effectively select, adapt, implement and evaluate HIV prevention strategies and behavioral interventions. Improving the capacity of community organizations will help them become more effective in promoting healthy behaviors and reducing the spread of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases within their communities. To read about some of the evidence based interventions for which the BSSV Program provides capacity building assistance, see the DEBI Project website. More information on the BSSV Program is available online.

About the Volunteers

Francisco Javier Parga, PhD, received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico and maintains a private psychotherapy practice in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is a certified HIV trainer by APA’s HIV Office for Professional Education in the areas of general psychology and HIV, drug use and HIV, the severely and persistently mentally ill and HIV, and ethics. He remains an active consultant in the BSSV Program.

Tamarah Moss-Knight, PhD, MPH, MSW, is a member of the BSSV Program’s Intensive Capacity Leadership Team. Currently an independent consultant, Dr. Moss-Knight has extensive experience working on public health and social service projects in the U.S., Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, in addition to volunteering with local HIV/AIDS organizations in prevention education and advocacy. She has done training and consultation work for the Advocates for Youth, the Grenadines Partnership Fund, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the UN Population Fund’s Global Youth Partners Program. She received a PhD in Social Work from Howard University in Washington D.C.