TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A Pima County coalition has formed to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and substance use among young minorities in the community.
The program Your Story is being developed by the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, Amistades, Inc., the University of Arizona Campus Health and Office of LGBTQ Affairs and Pima Prevention Partnership.
The group said it will focus on helping people of color and gay, lesbian, transgender people, ages 13-24.
According to a news release from the group, 43.4 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in Pima involve people of color and 59.9 percent involve gay men. The release also claims 23 percent of Hispanic students in Arizona report using marijuana at least once and 35 percent of the LGBTQ students at the University of Arizona said they do not seek medical care due to fear of disclosing their identity, sexual orientation or transgender status.
"This program is vital when you look at the statistics," SAAF Executive Director Wendell Hicks said. "Well over one-third of new HIV infections in Pima County are occurring in people of color. (It) is alarming and extremely upsetting. Knowing that stigma is at the heart of so many statistics like these, Your Story's unique strategies, including storytelling for empowerment and increasing community capacity, will go a long ways towards breaking down the shame surrounding these difficult to discuss subjects."
According to the group, Your Story will attempt to:
• Build infrastructure to better address substance use and high-risk sexual behavior.
• Increase access to substance use and HIV prevention and testing services.
• Reduce risk related to substance use and HIV.
• Establish SAAF as a regional training and support center building local capacity in comprehensive evidence-based prevention approaches to substance use, HIV and Hepatitis.