Human Rights Campaign Announces New Gen Z Program: Building a Generation Free of HIV & Stigma

by Aryn Fields

WASHINGTON — Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, announced the launch of “GENERATE”—a heath equity-focused peer facilitator program that fosters the professional development and leadership of Black and Latinx LGBTQ young people to advocate, engage and mobilize communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS. This program, targeted specifically to Generation Z, fits under the umbrella of My Body, My Health, a comprehensive public education campaign that works toward building a generation free of HIV/AIDS and stigma.

Since young people have been particularly impacted by major technological and societal disruptions, the HRC Foundation is exploring new ways to end the HIV epidemic; “GENERATE” will train young activists to use the powers of their stories to reach millions of their peers around the realities of HIV today through digital and earned media as part of a culturally relevant public education campaign, empowering LGBTQ Black and Latinx youth to shape their communities and futures.

There is no question that the next generation of health activists will have a powerful role to play in putting an end to the HIV epidemic and boosting positivity around prevention and treatment measures. Multiply marginalized people disproportionately bear the brunt of social and economic inequities that fuel HIV stigma and discrimination. That is why it is critical to reach these emerging leaders now and empower them to be forces of justice, liberation and equality not only in their own communities but for our world.

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

The goal of “GENERATE” is to build on the strengths of LGBTQ youth advocates by mentoring them to spearhead innovative and meaningful grassroots level advocacy, elevate HIV prevention efforts and create transformative change that combats HIV stigma. The HRC Foundation is accepting 15 youth advocates into the program; applicants must identify as a Black or Latinx LGBTQ young person between the ages of 18-24, and be committed to advancing equity and justice for marginalized communities. The application closes August 19, 2021, to apply click HERE.

It is impossible to ignore that over half of young people living with HIV do not know their status—mostly due to inadequate HIV educational resources targeted at the younger generation. It is imperative to shine a light on these health disparities and work with Gen Z change-makers to create educational tools for their peers.

J. Maurice McCants-Pearsall, Human Rights Campaign Director of HIV & Health Equity

At the onset of the program, youth advocates will be tasked with supporting and collaborating with a community-based organization or organizing group on topics such as LGBTQ issues, minority-led social justice and HIV stigma and discrimination. “GENERATE” will center around capacity building and community mobilization by equipping peer facilitators with the knowledge and skills to effect change for vulnerable populations, such as homeless LGBTQ youth. This will primarily be achieved through digital storytelling by developing shareable digital tools, such as one-pagers and fact sheets, to propel efforts in reaching their peers.

HRC's GENERATE program provides youth in communities most impacted by HIV with the tools and resources needed to tell their stories, force policy changes in their communities and improve health outcomes.

Dr. DeMarc Hickson, Us Helping Us Executive Director

In 2018, of the new HIV diagnoses in the United States, 21% were youth ages 13-24. This cohort was the most likely to be unaware of their status compared to any other age group—the highest prevalence of new diagnoses among youth is in the Black community, followed by the Latinx community. Furthermore, 1 in 2 Black gay and bisexual cisgender men and 1 in 4 Latinx gay and bisexual cisgender men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. According to a recent CDC study in seven United States cities, 42% of transgender women interviewed had HIV, with 62% of Black transgender women and 35% of Latinx transgender women already living with HIV.

HIV/AIDS continues to be a major public health crisis both in the U.S. and around the world. While there have been significant strides and biomedical advancements in HIV prevention, treatment and care, there is still urgent work to be done for those who are historically marginalized—approximately 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. After 40 years since the CDC first published about HIV/AIDS, there remains no vaccine or cure, and tens of thousands of people continue to contract HIV/AIDS every year. Insufficient funding for public health programs, ideological opposition to common sense prevention policies and societal barriers have made it especially difficult to turn the tide against the epidemic.

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