INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The Damien Center is looking to build a team of people to help deal with an increase in HIV diagnoses among young adults.
In 2019, the Indianapolis area recorded approximately 271 new HIV diagnoses. Of those, 55 were young adults, according to state data.
The representatives of the Damien Center hope by creating its Positive Youth Action group that they will be able to rule over these figures. HIV still carries a stigma 40 years after the first cases were diagnosed. And as treatment options have improved, advocates have said there is no time to waste in prevention efforts.
âHIV can be very isolating, so we want to integrate it more into a community care model rather than just one person trying to fend for themselves,â said Evren Elliott, Youth Program Specialist at the Damien Center.
HIV is most often transmitted through sexual contact; shared or contaminated needles or syringes; infected blood or blood products; and women infected with their babies at birth or through breastfeeding.
The increase in HIV diagnoses occurs most often among 16-24 year olds, according to the state’s most recent data. Homosexuals are not the only ones concerned. This is happening at all levels with black and transgender people most at risk.
âThe hope is that we’ll hire more young people if we have young people trying to hire them,â Elliott said.
The grant from ViiV Healthcare helps create the Positive Youth Action program. Over the next three years, the program hopes to train 60 young people to do outreach and advocacy work to help bring these rates down.
“If you walk in somewhere and see someone who looks like you and you see that they somehow reflect your past, you feel more comfortable in a place.”
Elliott said young people often find it difficult to speak openly with potential partners about whether they have been tested or their status.
âThat’s a big part of the goal, is to involve these young people, to bring their peers here, and to get their peers excited about HIV advocacy and doing these things that we see. difficult conversations, which makes for really easy conversations. “
The deadline to apply for the program is January 5th.