Bridging Gaps in Healthcare through Relationships: Positive Action for Youth Program
SEPTEMBER 29, 2017
BY: DELIA HAGAN, MENTOR: THE NATIONAL MENTORING PARTNERSHIP
A new initiative by ViiV Healthcare seeks to fund mentoring programs for young people living with HIV, to support them in accessing and navigating the healthcare system and achieving wellness. According to the CDC, approximately 50,000 people contract HIV each year, and one in four is a young person between the ages of 13 and 24. And according to a fact sheet released by ViiV Healthcare, youth are experiencing delays in finding out that they are HIV positive and receiving the care they need to stay healthy, which can impact future health outcomes. But the organization believes that mentoring can help link young people to care and help them stay connected to consistent treatment. By providing young people with support, information, and opportunities to build skills and confidence, mentors can help youth overcome the common barriers they may experience in the healthcare system – from alleviating concerns about confidentiality, to supporting their adjustment to major life changes like taking medication and attending regular appointments.
Per ViiV Healthcare’s announcement, the below organizations received funds this year to design or expand mentoring programs supporting youth living with HIV, and to develop a toolkit detailing best practices based on their work:
- Abounding Prosperity
- Advocates for Youth
- AIDS Alabama
- Center on Halsted
- National AIDS Education and Services for Minorities
- RAIN, Inc.
As a former health worker, I saw the power that mentoring can have in the lives of patients who are adjusting to a new HIV diagnosis. Having a role model who one can turn to for support during this adjustment can be a critical lifeline for youth as they learn about their diagnosis, adjust to treatment, decide if and how to disclose to family and friends, and navigate the healthcare system, among many other potential changes. I also saw how powerful the opportunity to serve as a peer or young adult mentor could be for my patients. Being able to share one’s insights and shared experiences with someone in need of this specific support provided a sense of purpose and confidence that could strengthen the mentor’s own outlook and commitment to wellness. Programs like ASCNYC, which facilitate peer health education for people living with HIV, provide a certification process through which “Peers” receive extensive training on reaching out to, informing, and cultivating mentor-like relationships with others living with the virus. In my experience, these programs were able to reduce isolation, build community, and transform the lives of both the mentor and mentee.
I look forward to reading about the ViiV Healthcare grantees’ experiences and best practices when the toolkit is released. For other mentoring practitioners and youth development professionals, have you seen connections between mentoring and health outcomes for youth and/or mentors? Feel free to share your stories here.