Youth led effort aims to reduce HIV cases

A new program to address a rising number of new HIV cases among young people will also be youth led.

Damien Center will run the Positive Youth Action (+YA) program to engage HIV positive and at-risk youth aged 16-24, in advocacy and leadership efforts. Young people made up 55 of the 271 new HIV cases in Marion County in 2019. 

Damien Youth Program Specialist Evryn Elliot said the program starts with education on individual health and wellbeing.

“And then equipping them with the tools they need to be able to speak to others and help advocate for better HIV care and prevention and general de-stigmatization,” Elliot said.

Ten youth will be accepted for the first cohort to help build skills, network, grant writing and advocacy training, Another 10 will be accepted in the second half of the year.

After finishing the six month program the youth will receive funding to complete a project.

Elliot said the peer led effort can be more impactful.

“Nothing about us without us, we can’t pretend to tell young people how to do things and what to do, they’re going to mainly listen to people their own age,” he said.

Damien aims to make the opportunity as accessible as possible with an easy application, help with transportation or tablets to attend virtual training. Applications are due Jan. 5.

There will also be opportunities for the cohort to engage in learning off-site, including travel to conferences, events and the Statehouse.

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