Every Thursday this month, a group of teenagers gathers at the Dedicated to Make a Change clubhouse to talk about sex, eat cookies, and get paid. This is Prevent and Prevail. Prevent and Prevail was started to educate youth ages 12-21 on how to prevent HIV, and the topics covered have branched out from there.
Prevent and Prevail is a 5 week program. Each week we cover different topics. The first week we discussed gender, orientation, and what it means to be an ally. At first some of the youth seemed confused by the various spectrums used to represent gender and orientation, but then we talked about being an ally. Everyone has a friend or family member that fits somewhere in the LGBTQ realm. It was beautiful to see that, even though the participants were confused by the jargon, they were still able to accept people as people and understand the importance of being an ally.
The second week we talked about HIV, other STDs, and birth control. This is my favorite week because I get to horrify everyone with descriptions of STDs and then show everyone how to use a condom. Having an STD doesn’t make you a slut. Sex with someone of the same gender is not safer than sex with someone of a different gender. Double bagging is not safer than using only one condom. Debunking the myths surrounding STDs is tough, but totally necessary if today’s youth are going to know how to actually protect themselves.
The third week we discussed power and different types of relationships. On the surface, those topics may not seem directly related to HIV prevention, but they definitely are. One of the activities we did in week 3, was talk about how people express like and dislike differently in different relationships. For example, if you don’t like something your friend does, you may plainly tell them that you don’t like it; if your boss does something you don’t like, you may not say anything because they have more power than you. The purpose of this week is to set the stage for the idea that unequal power in relationships can cause issues of consent.
Last week, we discussed rape, consent, and laws pertaining to sex. One of the things we did in week 4, was look at TV commercials and print ads and discuss how those ads perpetuate rape culture. The stereotype that all men are rapists and that all women are waiting to be raped is complete BS and does a disservice to all people. The Prevent and Prevail participants were awesome in their ability to quickly grasp the idea that all people can rape, and all people can be raped, regardless of gender.
This week is week five. Week 5 is essentially a summary and review of everything learned up until this point, but always with a special activity. Last run of Prevent and Prevail we went on a field trip to the Corner Health Center. This time HARC will be giving a presentation. Follow this blog for more updates on Prevent and Prevail!