National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Spotlight: Advocates for Youth

Apr 10, 2024 | Anthony Green

In honor of National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on April 10th, NACCHO is launching a blog series highlighting organizations that work to address HIV and health inequities among youth. Our second spotlight features a conversation with Advocates for Youth, the founders of National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

Advocates for Youth (Advocates) envisions a society in which all young people are valued, respected, and treated with dignity; sexuality is accepted as a healthy part of being human; and youth sexual development is normalized and embraced.  In such a world, all youth and young adults are celebrated for who they are and afforded honest, affirming, inclusive sex education; access to confidential, universal sexual health services; and the economic, educational, and social power to exercise their bodily autonomy and make informed decisions regarding their health and well-being.

2. How does your organization support youth living with or impacted by HIV/AIDS?

Young people living with HIV face immense legal and cultural discrimination, and too often, are unable to get the information and resources they need to thrive. In 2019, Advocates launched a national council of youth activists who are living with HIV. Known as ECHO (Engaging Communities around HIV Organizing), the council focuses on decriminalizing HIV, ensuring that K-12 HIV education is medically accurate, and eradicating stigma. Each year, 10 youth activists are recruited to join ECHO and provided training and resources from Advocates for Youth to work to combat HIV stigma, decriminalize HIV, and raise awareness online and in their communities. ECHO council members will use social media, peer education, storytelling and media outreach to raise awareness of the interconnection between HIV disparity, racism, homophobia, and transphobia, and advocate for the inclusion of youth most impacted by HIV in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies that affect their health and well-being.

In addition, for 45 years, Advocates has provided information, training, and strategic assistance to CBOs, ASOs, community- and school-based health centers, and school administrators and educators regarding evidence- and rights-based best practices in HIV and other STI prevention. Much of this work has centered on building the capacity of YSIs to meet the needs of youth living with and impacted by HIV.   

In 2021, Advocates launched ¡Poder! The Power of Young Latinx Gay, Bisexual, Queer, and Trans (GBTQ) Men Through Youth Adult-Partnerships to build the capacity of five CBOs to support young Latinx gay, bisexual, and transmen ages 13-24 living with or affected by HIV through the development and/or strengthening of health-centered youth advisory boards (YAC). The creation of health-centered YACs will support the redressing of homophobia and transphobia within the local Latinx community (healthcare, education, and community-based organizations) through organization-driven events and activities that highlight the importance of family and peer acceptance. CBOs are offered training on safer spaces for GBTQ youth, youth-adult partnerships, digital mobilization, etc. to provide strategies for building new and/or existing community support by identifying key Latinx and HIV partners and community organizations. Most recently, a ¡Poder! partner recognized a disparity for recipients of their At Home Testing Initiative. The materials, included in their at-home HIV/STI testing boxes, were not accessible to some individuals. After two young people led a session on youth-adult partnerships and considerations of young GBTQ Latinx men, the YSO acted and translated materials into Spanish for Latinx individuals, who are not fluent in English, increasing the availability and accessibility of a vital health resource for the first time with the Latinx community the YSO serves.

3. Why is National Youth HIV/AIDS important to you?

National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) reminds us all that policymakers and the public should take action regarding the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people. Young people face various barriers to HIV prevention, treatment, and care options. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the United States, 19% of new HIV diagnoses in 2021 were among young people aged 13-24. The CDC found that in 2021, 6% of high school students had ever been tested for HIV. These statistics remind us that is up to all of us to ensure that we are address and uplifting the values of NYHAAD.

4. What can local health departments learn from your work about supporting youth impacted by HIV/AIDS? What resources do you want to share with local health department HIV programs?

Local health departments can develop youth-advisory boards that are inclusive young people living with and impacted by HIV & AIDS. Advocates for Youth has various resources regarding youth-adult partnerships, building cultural responsiveness for youth serving professionals, and creating safer spaces for LGBTQ youth. Local health departments can also partner with other YSIs to increase the likelihood that young people living with HIV successfully transition to adult HIV care. In 2020, Advocates partnered with young people living with HIV, pediatric and adult care providers, and various community-based and AIDS service organizations to design Medical Mentorship for Young People Living With HIV: Toolkit and Guide, created specifically for organizations and individuals dedicated to supporting youth, ages 13 to 24 living with HIV, to smoothly transition to and navigate adult care. This collaborative co-creation process leveraged the voices and expertise of several key stakeholders to identify best practices, learnings, and recommendations regarding young people’s transition to adult HIV care. The Toolkit and Guide recognized that mentorship is an effective strategy to support young people living with HIV in building the self-management skills needed to successfully transition from pediatric to adult care, the point at which they are most likely to fall out of care.

5. What should local health departments keep in mind when engaging youth and young adults?

Advocates for Youth envisions a society that views sexuality as normal and healthy and treats young people as a valuable resource. Local health departments might benefit from our vision: Rights. Respect. Responsibility.

RIGHTS: Youth have the inalienable right to honest sexual health information; confidential, consensual sexual health services; and equitable opportunities to reach their full potential.

RESPECT: Youth deserve respect. Valuing young people means authentically involving them in the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies that affect their health and well-being.

RESPONSIBILITY: Society has the responsibility to provide young people with all of the tools they need to safeguard their sexual health, and young people have the responsibility to protect themselves.

To learn more about Advocates for Youth, please visit Advocates for Youth. Read more about NYHAAD and access social media resources Social Media Toolkit: National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day - Google Docs


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