In 1992, a team of health care and youth service professionals founded HIFY in response to the immediate need for HIV prevention, treatment and care for young people in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. During the past decade, HIFY began to look at the bigger picture of the lives of young people. We now view HIV and health from a holistic point of view, addressing co-factors that put people at greater risk for infection. Because HIV is one of a broad matrix of interconnected health issues confronting youth, we have expanded services to address risks to healthy development faced by youth; particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. In the process, we have acquired a wealth of experience on how best to serve a richly diverse community of young people.
We currently offer three innovative LGBTQIQ youth programs. The first is FABULOUS!, a six week substance abuse and HIV prevention program aimed at LGBTQIQ street-involved and marginally housed youth. This program offers LGBTQIQ youth a holistic approach to HIV and substance abuse prevention by exploring cofactors such as emotional management, triggers, coping skills, and problem solving. Participant surveys in 2013 revealed a statistically significant increase in participants’ confidence negotiating sexual safety in all areas including refusing sex without condoms, telling a partner how to treat them sexually, and refusal of unwanted sexual practices. Data also revealed a 21% increase in youth who reported having taken an HIV test since enrolling in FABULOUS! Youth participants also reported significant increases in risk perception of sex while on drugs, marijuana, alcohol, unprotected anal sex, and sharing needles.
In 2013, HIFY also opened the first Drop In Space in West Oakland for LGBTQIQ youth, the QTY (Queer/Trans* Youth) Treehouse. QTY is a safe space for LGBTQIQ young people to meet peers, have fun, and learn about resources in the community. Located in Oakland Council District 3, QTY launched 8 months ago and has since received 110 visits by LGBTQIQ youth (mostly transitional age street-involved youth). At QTY, HIFY staff also implement enriching weekly activities including queer culture movie screenings, art workshops, and health workshops on topics such as HIV prevention, gender and sexuality, and social justice. HIFY also hosts a monthly Queer Open Mic event at QTY, which offers LGBTQIQ youth a space to share personal stories and foster community.
Recently HIFY has partnered with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to implement an exciting new LGBTQIQ Leadership and Allyship program across three San Francisco Middle Schools. Through this innovative new program, HIFY facilitates classes with every youth in the school across 6th-8th grades to explore issues around gender, sexuality, bullying, and homophobia. This program works with youth to create a culture of safety and allyship where middle school students feel comfortable exploring their own gender and sexuality, seeking support from peers and adults, and where no student is targeted simply for being open about their identity.