Poz Youth Find Buddies Thanks to Foundation
The Positive Young People Foundation hopes to change the way HIV-positive youth is dealing with its issues.
In an Aug. 13 statement, the groups announced its intention to launch Buddy+, which is exactly what it sounds like - youth can sign up and get a year's worth of one-on-one "emotional support from mentors trained by HIV professionals, all provided free of charge," the announcement reads. This comes with a toll-free hotline, too.
"Being told you have HIV is frightening. Having a buddy, someone who understands, someone who cares, someone you can reach out to when you feel too overwhelmed, makes it not only bearable, but manageable," said Pam Stevens, PYP's Boca Raton ambassador.
The whole idea comes from Irwin Drucker, PYP's executive director.
"We'd never done anything on the line of direct services. I just felt it was time to take it to the next level," Drucker told SFGN. "Our whole focus as an organization is on young people, so it was a no-brainer."
But why a buddy system?
"We felt that one thing that people really need - there's a lot of information on what meds to take, safe practices, etc. - a resource on, you know, how to tell your mother you're positive," Drucker said. "We felt this would complete the circle - to have emotional support."
Lee Rubin, The Pride Center's development committee co-chair noted that with PYP's Buddy+ system, HIV-positive young people "are not alone."
And Chance Mitchell, co-founder and CEO of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce had this to say: "When one-fourth of new cases of HIV in the U.S. are high school and college-age kids, there is no better time to introduce a personalized system like Buddy+ for mentoring, safety, and prevention. Community is the best change maker."
The system even got endorsed by Florida's Patrick Murphy, the nation's youngest Congressman.
"In this age of reduced Federal spending for many assistance programs, young people living with HIV+AIDS will need to rely more on the private sector for programs that offer free services to those in need," Murphy said. "PYP's new Buddy+ program ... is an excellent example of just such a program, offering critical emotional support to young men and women in the early stages of infection."
On top of Buddy+, PYP plans for launch a program focused on women since "many current programs are only available to MSM," reads the announcement.
"Something's got to change," Drucker concluded in regards to the way youth are treated in HIV prevention and advocacy. "Programs like this are critically necessary."