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Research Round-Up: HIV Prevention Among Minorities, Benefits of Ethnically Diverse Schools

HIV prevention: People wanting information about HIV prevention feel more comfortable getting it from people who look like them, according to a new University of Florida study.

The findings contradict the widely held belief that experts are more effective than peers in successful HIV prevention campaigns. The study found that the most effective resources are experts whose gender and ethnicity match those of the patients seeking guidance. People who want to prevent HIV or need advice after a diagnosis often feel more comfortable talking with someone of their race and gender.

“We found that the best experts for prevention among African-American women are African-American and female. If you look at physicians, nurses, psychologists and many other health professionals, many of them are White. So to find those experts with racial and gender matching isn’t always easy,” said Dr. Dolores Albarracin, who with Dr. Marta R. Durantini authored the study published in the March Psychological Bulletin.

The study involved a comprehensive statistical analysis from 166 HIV prevention interventions, and included published and unpublished works. Interventions consist of programs sponsored by experts and peer leaders, visits to medical professionals and programs led by peers.


Diverse schools: Offering yet more proof about the value of diversity in education, a new study has found that middle school students are more likely to feel safer, less bullied and less lonely in ethnically diverse schools.

Conducted by psychologists from the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Davis, the study has implications for higher education.

“Bullying happens in every school, and many students are concerned about their safety. However, our analysis shows students feel safer in ethnically diverse classrooms and schools,” says Dr. Jaana Juvonen, a professor of psychology at UCLA and lead author of the study. The research, published in the May issue of the journal Psychological Science, is based on evaluations of more than 70 sixth-grade classrooms in 11 Los Angeles public middle schools.

A “balance of power” among ethnic groups may be the reason that students in ethnically diverse schools feel safer and less vulnerable, the authors say. Their theory is that when ethnic groups are fairly equally represented, bullying and harassment may decrease. In addition, an ethnic balance of power may have other benefits, including opportunities for cross-ethnic friendships, the researchers say.

Juvonen and her colleagues studied classrooms with lower and higher diversity among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Whites. The researchers classified classrooms as diverse when multiple ethnic groups were represented in relatively similar proportions. The findings of the study held even when classroom differences in academic performance were taken into account.

The researchers were able to examine the effects of diversity on African-American and Hispanic students — the two ethnic groups that were represented in every classroom in the study.

“Other research at the college level has found that students from all ethnic backgrounds may benefit from ethnically diverse environments,” says co-author Dr. Adrienne Nishina, an assistant professor of human development at UC-Davis.

The researchers say the study has wider implications beyond the psychological benefits for students. “We know that when students have positive social and psychological experiences at school, they do better academically,” Nishina says.

Citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on ethnic diversity on college campuses, co‑author Dr. Sandra Graham, professor and chair of the UCLA Department of Education, underscores the role of ethnic diversity on college campuses as a way to promote better learning.

“The skills needed for young people to successfully negotiate today’s increasingly global economy can best be developed through exposure to very diverse people, cultures, and points of view,” Graham says. “Diversity benefits everyone; in fact, it is critical in contemporary America and especially in states like California, where the population is changing dramatically.”

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