Know Your Status
An Austin area nonprofit is receiving additional help in achieving their mission from Grammy and Academy Award winner Sir Elton John.
This weekend, Candice Towe, the Executive Director of OutYouth, announced that the organization will receive its second $25,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation. This grant, she states in a press release, "enables Out Youth to continue providing critical HIV prevention, testing and counseling for youth in Central Texas."
OutYouth is a drop-in and counseling center for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, intersexed and allied (LGBTQIA) youth. They provide supportive programming and activities to youth ages 12 - 19 who may benefit from a safe space where they can be themselves.
The nonprofit also provides free, confidential HIV testing for youth ages 14 - 23 through their program Knowing Your Status is Smart (KYSS). The clinically directed program provides 20-minute oral swab tests for youth every Monday night, and does not require parental permission or notification.
All youth that take the initiative to get themselves or their friends tested also receive a gift card to Target. This incentive-based testing and the strict confidentiality practices reduce the anxieties that are usually associated with getting tested. OutYouth's mission is to promote regular testing among this group and increase the awareness of HIV statuses in Central Texas youth.
This effort comes at a pivotal time when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that last year 44 percent of Americans aged 13 to 24 living with HIV are undiagnosed, which is a much greater proportion than any other age group. The study states that those who are tested regularly or who are diagnosed will be more thoughtful in their sexual activity.
This past World AIDS Day, Sir Elton posted a forthright and personal message on The Huffington Post about the continued work of fighting HIV/AIDS, outlining a multi-pronged approach on how to stop the AIDS epidemic once and for all.
The first part of his treatise focuses on combating negative media messages about being gay so that our youth may grow up without the same terrifying fear of coming out. The second step encourages everyone in the world getting tested regularly to know their HIV statuses.
With the help of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, OutYouth and KYSS will be able to continue their important work in both these fronts.