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Recognizing National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day: A Focus on Evidence-Based Programming

William H. Bentley

William H. Bentley, Associate Commissioner of Family and Youth Services Bureau

In April, National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) brings together young leaders, national community partners and many other organizations and individuals nation-wide to foster a better response to the HIV epidemic. One of the many ways the federal government is responding to the HIV epidemic is to equip youth with the skills and resources they need to prevent the spread of HIV by using protection when having sex and regularly getting tested. In particular, the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s (FYSB) Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (APP) Program funds evidence-based adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection prevention programs in nearly 59 states and territories serving more than 430,000 youth annually.

So why are we talking about evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs in recognition of NYHAAD? According to Hazel D. Dean, ScD, MPH, Deputy Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, HIV and AIDS continue to be a serious health threat for women and girls, who comprised 23 percent (280,200) of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States in 2011.  Clearly, the behavior leading to pregnancy—unprotected sex—also puts adolescents at risk for HIV and AIDS.  In 2013, 16 percent of APP’s Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) funded grantees targeted reproductive health education to runaway and homeless youth and 22 percent targeted Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning (LGBTQ) youth.  In addition, many of the evidence-based curricula that APP grantees implement have a significant focus on HIV risk reduction.

A few examples of these are in:

  • Kentucky, where more than 5,800 students (2013-2014 school year) participated in Reducing the Risk—a program designed to build skills to help teens avoid unplanned pregnancies and the transmission of STIs, including HIV. Their implementation approach has focused on reaching youth in rural areas that have limited access to out-of-school programming to support risk avoidance skills development.
  • Missouri, Exit Disclaimer partners are working with community-based organizations to implement Making Proud Choices!—a program found to decrease the frequency of unprotected sex. More than 1,500 youth across the state will participate in the program which is specifically targeted to youth in foster care and residential treatment settings.
  • Arkansas, agencies are implementing both Be Proud Be Responsible Exit Disclaimer and Making Proud Choices!  In particular, youth at high risk for teen pregnancy, such as those in foster care or in juvenile justice, are being served through this program.
  • Louisiana, APP funds the state’s health departments that serve teen girls in 6 different regions with the curriculum Sisters, Informing, Healing, Living, Empowering (SiHLE). This evidence based intervention was developed to specifically address the STI/HIV/AIDS prevention needs of African-American adolescent girls.

Frequently, we find that pregnancy prevention and HIV/AIDS prevention service providers operate independently of one another.  In recognition of NYHAAD, we encourage you to coordinate an event with other organizations in your community to bridge the gap in the work to prevent teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. With so many youth learning about HIV through mobile device messaging, we urge you to use social media to share the facts about HIV and AIDS.  Enhanced coordination and the use of youth friendly digital media will help ensure that more youth receive critical education and skills to make healthy decisions.

To find FYSB’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention grantees in your state, click here.