Kids living on the streets are at extremely high risk of HIV infection. Without job skills, homeless youth may turn to prostitution to support themselves. They may seek to escape depression and their sense of hopelessness through drug use. Both prostitution and drug use significantly increase the risk of HIV infection. And exploitive pasts, common among homeless youth, are often linked to risky behaviors on the part of youth which can result in additional risks of HIV exposure.
Larkin Street offers at-risk youth a positive path to bring them off the streets, help them rebuild their lives and gain the skills and knowledge they need to protect themselves from exposure to HIV by participating in our comprehensive HIV prevention program. The at- risk youth Larkin Street Youth Services serves are highly diverse—in age, in racial and ethnic background, in socioeconomic status. To meet their unique and individual needs, Larkin Street offers a range of HIV prevention and education services throughout all of our youth programs including individual outreach services, one-on-one risk reduction counseling, conveniently-accessible drop-in groups, ongoing classes and workshops, and employment training to give them safe options for supporting themselves.
Larkin Street was the first site in San Francisco to offer youth-friendly HIV testing more than 20 years ago. Larkin Street’s goal is that all of the youth participating in programs will know their HIV status. We believe this is an important basis for protecting themselves if they are not HIV positive as well as key knowledge for the protection of others if they are HIV positive. Today, we test nearly 400 kids annually.
We offer all of our interventions, including HIV prevention, from a harm reduction perspective. Harm reduction is a nonjudgmental philosophy that allows young people to have input into their own recovery plans and gives them skills to prevent HIV no matter where they are in their journey off the streets. With Larkin Street’s HIV prevention services, kids can change their behaviors, maintain their health, and focus on the bright futures that lie ahead.
Last year, more than 1,000 youth participated in HIV prevention activities at Larkin Street.