A new social media campaign is in the works to help young LGBTIQ people in Queensland fill in the gaps in their knowledge of sexual health and better understand the risks of HIV.
Fortitude Valley-based Open Doors Youth Service is working with researchers from the University of Queensland’s School of Public Health to develop the new campaign to help young people better understand how to protect themselves and their partners.
Open Doors director Chris Pickard told the Brisbane Times that the service’s staff had found young gender-variant people were lacking knowledge about sexual health.
“Because there’s a lack of adequate sexual education for young people in schools, they really don’t know as much as they should by the time they come to be sexually active,” he said.
“Because there is … very few, if not zero, specialised services for young people to go and seek support around sexual health testing, it was discussed among the group that there was a significant need to make sure we were providing these young people with the support and education that they needed and deserved.”
Pickard said gender-diverse youth could find it intimidating to visit their family doctor seeking health care, for fear of vilification or being outed to family and friends.
The proposed social media campaign is funded by a ViiV Healthcare Positive Action Community Grant and will aim to remove stigma from HIV and expand the knowledge young people have of preventing the disease.
School of Public Health researcher Dr Lisa Fitzgerald told the Brisbane Times that similar programs they had collaborated on with Open Doors had clearly identified a lack of sexual health literacy in young people.
The new campaign would be developed over the next 12 to 18 months with the young people accessing the service helping to shape it, she said.
“The rates of… STIs are growing in Australia generally and [there’s a] need for us to be looking at how we can enable young people to access sexual health testing more effectively,” Dr Fitzgerald said.
In 2016, there were 192 new diagnoses of HIV in Queensland. Nearly 90 per cent of those diagnosed were men, and almost 30 per cent of the new cases were in the 20-29 year age bracket. Diagnoses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders increased.
Open Doors is also set to launch a monthly rapid HIV testing service at their premises in Fortitude Valley to encourage young people aged between 16 and 24 to get privately and confidentially tested.
To get in touch with Open Doors Youth Service, visit their website.