Youth Advocacy Corps

The Youth Advocacy Corps is a youth advocacy and leadership development initiative focusing on sexual health advocacy. The Youth Advocacy Corps develops and professionalizes youth participants' advocacy and capacity-building skills to produce cohorts of strong, effective sexual health advocates. The youth voice is crucial for meaningful conversations about sexual health and the laws and policies that strengthen or inhibit young people's access to sexual health services and programs. Young people's perspectives and experiences should inform sexual health policy discussions at the federal, state, and local level. 

The Youth Advocacy works in tandem with the Teen SENSE initiative, which works to secure the right of youth in state custody to comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive sexual health services and sexual health literacy programming. This includes ensuring that staff of foster care, detention, and other government-operated and -regulated youth facilities are equipped to understand and protect all youth in their care, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Youth Advocacy Corps provides a safe space for young people to learn about these issues and to effectively participate in Teen SENSE-related advocacy.

The Youth Advocacy Corps has three objectives:

Objective I: To highlight the connection between a lack of comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive sexual health care, and poorer health outcomes and sexual violence related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. 

The Youth Advocacy Corps ensures that participants are equipped with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to become effective advocates. This occurs through training sessions that not only enhance youth participants' sexual health knowledge, but also help them understand the obstacles that inhibit access to the programs and services that improve their sexual health and well-being. Training sessions explore the following questions:

  • How do sexual health services and sexual health literacy programming improve overall health and prevent sexual violence related to homophobia and transphobia?
  • Why should child welfare and juvenile justice agencies ensure that sexual health needs of youth in their care are met?
  • Which sexual health services and sexual health literacy programming should be provided?
  • What must youth facilities staff know about the rights and needs of the young people in their care, particularly LGBTQ youth?

In jurisdictions where HIV criminalization issues are relevant – such as those states with criminal statutes and sentencing requirements that target people with HIV on the basis of their status – youth participants may also receive programming related to HIV criminalization with sessions exploring the following questions:

  • What is HIV criminalization?
  • Which behaviors are targeted by HIV-specific criminal laws in your jurisdiction?
  • How can I protect myself or someone else who may be at risk of arrest or prosecution related to HIV nondisclosure?

Objective II: To build and professionalize the advocacy and leadership skills of young people.

The Youth Advocacy Corps helps participants develop advocacy and leadership skills applicable to both sexual health and social justice campaigns. Following programming on specific sexual health issues, participants receive training on the technical skills necessary to become effective youth advocates able to approach community leaders, policymakers, and government officials with confidence. Training sessions include programming on the following:

  • The importance of civic engagement and the elements of legislative and executive branch policymaking;
  • The importance of teamwork and coalition building when developing and implementing advocacy campaigns;
  • Oral and written advocacy skills, including how to communicate effectively with elected and appointed officials through visits, writing, telephoning, or emailing;
  • Research skills, including how to access and use the best, most accurate information to support advocacy demands;
  • Social media skills, including the design and maintenance of Twitter and Facebook accounts, websites/blogs, message boards, and listservs;
  • Advocacy campaign tools, including how to identify existing tools and develop new ones that work best for sexual health advocacy campaigns; and
  • Advocacy campaign and direct action strategies, including how to develop an effective, manageable advocacy plan that identifies an issue, assesses the needs of a community or interest group, clearly communicates a message or position, and describes activities and a timeline for direct action with community leaders, policymakers, and/or government officials.

Objective III: To coordinate and support youth-led sexual health advocacy campaigns and direct actions.

The Youth Advocacy Corps coordinates and supports youth-led sexual health advocacy campaigns and direct actions that target community leaders, policymakers, and local, state, and federal government officials. Activities include the following:

  • Letter- and email-writing campaigns;
  • Participation in youth events and conferences, including youth-led presentations;
  • Testifying at public hearings, including city council meetings, committee hearings, and public health department meetings;
  • Direct engagement with community leaders, child welfare and juvenile justice professionals, policymakers, and government officials to present advocacy demands.

For more information about the Youth Advocacy Corps or Teen SENSE, contact us at info@hivlawandpolicy.org.