About one-third of all new HIV infections in the US occur in people under age 29. In Massachusetts, young people (13-29) accounted for 11% of all new infections during the years 2007-2009. Homelessness, drug use, and abuse are strongly tied to HIV risk among youth.
Youth who are homeless or sometimes homeless are often faced with difficult decisions, like how to find food and shelter. Some end up trading sex for basic survival, increasing their risk for STDs and HIV. Homeless and street involved youth are also likely to have experienced rejection and abuse, especially those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning.
To reach these young people, AIDS Action operates Youth on Fire, a drop-in center in Harvard Square for homeless and street involved youth ages 14-24. Youth become members of the program. They can access tangible services that include daily meals, showers, laundry, clothing, safer sex supplies, computers, and phones. In addition, basic health screening and mental health services are provided on-site by the Sidney Borum, Jr. Health Center.
AIDS Action provides case management services for those members who wish to address long-term goals. In the past year, 856 homeless youth visited us 6,169 times. We served 4,680 meals, conducted 366 follow up risk-reduction visits, and provided medical care to 177 members.