Positive Youth Transitions: Link, Click, and Connect
by: Tina Radin – Philadelphia Fight
Our ACIOP grant helped us to turn our dream of a youth focused Project TEACH class into a reality at Philadelphia FIGHT! For 20 years we have been offering Project TEACH, our homegrown HIV treatment education program for people living with HIV/AIDS (developed by PLWHA and members of ACT UP Philadelphia). In the last several years we have had increasing numbers of students aged 18-30, and this grant has allowed us to create a special class to address the ways in which young people struggle to access services and establish strong linkages to HIV care.
So far we’ve had a lot of really exciting success with this program. Our first cohort had a 100% graduation rate, we enrolled an even larger second cohort and are steadily receiving new applications from our partner agencies; the adolescent HIV/AIDS clinics at St Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Many of our students are learning new skills for the first time; more than 50% of them were unfamiliar with Patient Portals before taking this class, several students in our first cohort were able to connect with a benefits specialist and initiate the process of obtaining medical coverage for the first time, and final evaluation scores showed that students learned where to find safe and reliable health information online (4.45 on a 5 point scale).
In addition to the new health literacy skills our students are building, we truly believe that the creation of a safe space to explore the unique challenges of being a young adult living with HIV is crucial to enabling and empowering them to succeed as adults living with HIV. The feedback we received from one of our graduates speaks volumes to this very point: “The people in my class as well as my instructors really opened up and shared intimate details about their struggles with living with HIV. There was nothing too clinical about the class and we learned so much from each other. I made friendships with people I wouldn’t have encountered in any other setting. I have true relationships with persons around my age who are experiencing many of the same things that I’ve been too ashamed to admit to other people who might not be too sensitive to my circumstance. I really love the fraternal bond we were able to build, and we continue to nourish. There aren’t enough ways to express how much I appreciate having gone through Youth TEACH!”
Keep an eye out for our next update with a video created by our students to share health information and providing support to other youth who may be transitioning to adult care!
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