St. Louis Health Department has enrolled a program that involves barber shops offering education about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in addition to their usual services.
The program, The Fade Out, is a response by the city’s health department to rising cases of new STD infections that have been rising annually.
Public health workers running the program have been recruiting barbers and hair stylists who primarily attract African-American customers. African-American have some of the highest STD rates in the US. A similar program is running in Dallas.
Hair salons are well known as the neighbourhood ‘gossip’ hubs. There are lots of conversations that take place in a salon. In most cases the stylists act as psychiatrists to their clients.
With this in mind, the health department decided to change the conversations taking place in salons into something more meaningful. The stylists are trained on how to address the STD topic with their clients.
They are taught all the facts about transmission, prevention, testing and treatment of STDs and HIV. They are also given condoms, both male and female, so that they can give them to their clients. They are also encouraged to refer their clients for testing and treatment at a STD clinic.
Most barbers and stylists have embraced the program saying that people listen to them and so if they’re able to tell people how to stay healthy they are willing to do it.
Hair Stylists better at Spreading Public Health Messages
Hair stylists are trendsetters and can be more efficient in disseminating health messages than health care workers, doctors and other authorities.
With this program, the department is targeting salons that operate in areas with the highest STD rates and has been successful in reaching more people than ever.
The goal of the program is to educate people about STD, encourage them to go for STD testing and connect them to available treatment. The participating salons conduct events where the health department offers free STD testing.
St Louis has held the title of the city with the highest STD rates in the US for the last one decade.
The program has seen stylists and barbers drive open and honest conversations about sex and STDs. Such conversations have helped reduce STD testing stigma and more people are embracing the use of condoms.
The hair stylists and barbers are not only offering their clients advice on beauty and fashion but also about their health. The trust between a stylist and their client is the driving force behind the success of the program.
Many health departments have been seeking the help of beauty professionals to promote health messages where many are still not educated about modern HIV prevention methods like HIV PrEP and HIV PEP. The St. Louis Health Department, in addition to The Fade Out program will also be partnering with tattoo artists to fight rising hepatitis C infections.
As STDs cases continue to take a worrisome upward trend in the United States, it’s good to see the most affected health departments make effort to fight these infections in innovative ways
While many STDs can be treated with antibiotics, many of them such as gonorrhea are becoming problematic to treat due to drug resistance. Prevention is therefore, the best way to fight new infections.