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Blog Post

How tapping youth voices helps dispel stigma and support sexual health

March 9, 2023

Younger generations have done a great job of reducing shame to help us grow. A great example is the confidence they have when talking about mental health.

As we know, this has led to a major shift in what we consider “being healthy.” Many companies, schools and public health departments have expanded resources to ensure mental health is attainable. 

But what about sexual health? That question still has a lot of stigma, especially when it comes to HIV.  

So how do we create change? By talking about it and reframing the conversation, too. Teaching abstinence doesn’t get us far, and young individuals have the right to learn how they can enjoy their sexual health and how to prevent or treat HIV or any STI. 

We need to ensure sexual health information reaches them.

Partnering with young people to create content and resources is the best way to understand their real worries or questions. This helped us come up with a strategy to support them through the Be You Colorado Campaign. 

The Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program’s Youth Leadership Team provided us with insights and highlighted concerns that guided our work to ensure these messages connected with our audience.  

Reaching Spanishspeaking individuals was important to us as we understand there are cultural differences in how we view our sexual health. We successfully reached over 100,000 young people in Colorado and had 4,500 people go to the website to learn more about their sexual health goals with Be You Colorado. 

As a 25-year-old Latina born between the age of Millennials and Gen Z, finding a safe resource to learn about sexual health was challenging. To me, it was the feeling of shame to even ask or type questions on Google (which was never helpful btw). 

But confiding in my closest female older cousins and friends — and having honest conversations and questions about what it means to have good sexual health — helped.  

 I think it’s time we all start talking about how STIs and HIV can be prevented and/or treated, what healthy consensual sex looks like, and reducing the stigma. 

Diana Garcia is a graphic and digital designer at SE2.