When it comes to equipping young people with knowledge, skills, and resources to make healthy decisions, Peer Health Exchange volunteers are amazing at leading honest conversations. It’s this kind of open, affirming dialogue that can play a vital role in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS amongst young people says Raven Feagins, communications coordinator, lead storyteller, and project manager for the Sexperts Slay campaign at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (check out Sexperts Slay on Instagram for more resources, colorful memes and informative graphics). We caught up with Raven to learn more about HIV prevention—and specifically how our college health educators can work to spread the word.
Q. What impact has HIV/AIDS had on young people?
A. Young people continue to make up a large portion of people newly diagnosed with HIV in the United States (21%) and many don’t even know they are living with the virus. Additionally, homophobia, sexism, racism and other social determinates of health on top of the myths that still surround HIV contribute to stigma, which then prevents people from getting tested or using prevention methods that can prevent new HIV diagnoses.
Q.What do young people need to know about HIV/AIDS, and its prevention?
A. I think it’s important for young people to just know that there are so many options out there! HIV prevention has come a long way and it’s imperative that young people embrace it so that new diagnoses become a thing of the past. They should know that PrEP is a pill that you can take once a day that is up to 99% effective in preventing HIV transmission. They should know that internal condoms are a barrier method option for receptive partners for anal and vaginal sex. They should know that pairing water-based lube with condoms makes for safer sex! Basically, prevention doesn’t have to be boring.
Q. Why is normalizing conversations about sex and sexual health important? How can our Peer Health Exchange volunteers play a role in prevention?
A. In a perfect world, all sexual health education would be comprehensive, accessible and without stigma. However, since that perfect world doesn’t exist we need to supplement for what is not always taught in schools, at home or even in the media.
We need the sexperts in our communities, like Peer Health Exchange volunteers, to share accurate information about sexual health in a body-positive, sex-positive and all around affirming way so that we can all get more comfortable talking about sex, especially with the people we want to have sex with. Talking about sexual health is part of prevention.
Graphic and photo courtesy of AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Raven Feagins is the communications coordinator, lead storyteller and project manager for the Sexperts Slay campaign at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. When they’re not writing for AFC, they enjoy spending time at home with their partner and their pitbull Rose.