For more than a quarter-century, Community Education Group (CEG) has been working with neighborhoods and communities to address pressing health needs and create change to achieve health equity. Founded in 1993 as the National Women and HIV/AIDS Project (NWAP), the organization’s original mission was to stop the spread of HIV among African American women. Recognizing that the issues and challenges facing Black women with respect to HIV, AIDS and STDs needed to be addressed within the larger context of family and community, NWAP became Community Education Group in 1996.
Initially based in Washington, DC, CEG quickly earned trust, respect, and a reputation for effectiveness by training and deploying outreach workers throughout District of Columbia neighborhoods hardest hit by the HIV epidemic. Pioneering the peer-based Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Prevention Services (CHAMPS) program, CEG recruited and trained community health workers including ex-offenders, people living with HIV/AIDS, and individuals with histories of substance abuse. Partnering with the CDC, HRSA, SAMSHA, Gilead Pharmaceuticals, and the DC Department of Health, CEG operated mobile testing units, provided HIV counseling and linkage to care, and distributed condoms via a network of community partners ranging from barbershops to beauty salons. To spread health messaging in the Black community, CEG produced and distributed informational brochures and videos, disseminated educational materials at testing sites and community events, conducted message testing, and developed social marketing campaigns. Honored for its work by then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and others, CEG became nationally known and stepped up as a leader of collaborative and capacity building efforts as well, transitioning from direct outreach and education to creating replicable, peer-empowering programs. Providing training and technical assistance to other non-profits in the District of Columbia and across the country, CEG assisted allies in needs assessment, program development and evaluation, organizational development and mentorship, diversity training, leadership and resource development, and focus group training. At the same time, CEG’s community-based research activities expanded to include empirical research, program evaluation, needs assessments, survey design, and rigorous data analysis for quality assurance and monitoring.
As CEG continued to evolve, its demographic cohort widened to include groups such as heterosexual men, men who have sex with men but do not identify as gay or bisexual, and the recently incarcerated. Moving beyond its initial focus on HIV/AIDS, CEG also expanded its services to include pregnancy prevention and women’s empowerment, conducted prevention outreach to women at risk for heart disease, integrated AA and NA group meetings into its on-site programs, and became the first organization to test widely new rapid Hep C screening methods.
Today, CEG is leveraging its decades of experience and expertise to adapt and implement successful intervention models on behalf of all underserved and disenfranchised communities, including those in rural areas, affected by health outcome and health access disparities. Globally, CEG is working to foster community engagement in community-based research programs, giving a voice to people whose lives are directly affected by HIV/AIDS and other health crises.