The AIDS Activities Coordinating Office reported 808 cases of children ages 13 to 19 with HIV or AIDS in Philadelphia in 2008. Another 5,872 young adults between ages 20 and 29 were also reported infected.
Located at 112 N. Broad St., the Youth Health Empowerment Project is a community-based health and leadership development program for Philadelphia youth. The program is a branch of its mother organization, Philadelphia FIGHT, a comprehensive AIDS services organization. Each year, Y-HEP serves over 8,000 high-risk, hard-to-reach teens and young adults in the Philadelphia area.
“It is a place that really reaches high-risk young people who are disconnected from other services or their families,” said Juliet Fink, the Director of Education at Philadelphia FIGHT.
Peer-led workshops, outreach programs, and a peer education academy are only some of the ways that Y-HEP helps these youth. Y-HEP also provides a drop-in center for Philadelphia youth.
“They can come to the drop-in center to get showers and food, to do their laundry, or to meet with a family-planning counselor or a trauma therapist,” said Fink. “Most of the youth that we see have extreme cases of trauma in their lives.”
The program is currently piloting a new project called Dance for Life. “We’re going into schools and using dance as a way to inspire young people to take action against HIV and AIDS,” said Fink.
By Tracy Galloway and Maria Zankey
Team 18, Technically Philly