Spectrum Program Brings Much-Needed HIV Prevention and Sexuality Education Program to Southern Arizona Youth

By Courtney Waters

SIROW is celebrating a momentous start to our new Spectrum program! Awarded in October 2017, Spectrum is a five-year HIV prevention grant funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. For this project, SIROW is excited to be partnering with long-time collaborator, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF), as well as a new collaborator, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health. These three agencies have come together to offer inclusive sexuality education, linkages to mental and behavioral health services, HIV testing, and prevention navigation for LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-24.

Spectrum uses two age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education curricula delivered by a team of three health educators. SIROW Health Education for Youth (HEY) is offered to 13- to 17-year-old participants. Iterations of HEY have been used by SIROW programs for over a decade in various community settings. For Spectrum, the curriculum was adapted to be LGBTQ-affirming.

SIROW Sexual Health Education – Queer (SHE-Q) was developed for SIROW’s previous ANCHOR Project (a supportive service project for homeless and unstably housed LGBTQ+-identified young adults) and continues to be used for Spectrum. Adapted from HEY, SHE-Q is designed to serve an 18+ LGBTQ+ audience. Both curriculums encompass sexuality education essentials like anatomy and physiology, STIs and HIV, and safer sex protection. They also include expanded lessons on communication and relationships, and four supplemental sessions addressing media literacy, body image, sexual and reproductive health services, and hookup culture.

Spectrum’s mental and behavioral health services include brief intervention (a three-to-six session short-term therapy program) as well as a LGBTQ-affirming dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) support group led by a Devereux therapist. HIV testing is offered by SAAF with options for mobile and on-site testing at the Eon Youth Lounge. SAAF’s Prevention Navigator links participants to community resources and other supportive services.

After an intense month of training, Spectrum service delivery kicked off in February 2018. Hitting the ground running, Spectrum has already served over 140 youth and young adults with their sexual health curriculum. Of the participants who have formally enrolled in Spectrum’s program evaluation, 76% are 13-17 years old; 13% identify as transgender or gender non-conforming; 61% identify as LGBTQ or another sexual orientation other than straight; and 44% are Hispanic/Latino.

This fall, Spectrum looks forward to offering services in high school, middle school, behavioral health, and juvenile detention settings. For more information about Spectrum, please contact Project Director, Claudia Powell, claudiap@email.arizona.edu, or Program Coordinator Courtney Waters at cwaters2@email.arizona.edu.