If you’re like most people, you’re going to listen carefully to information that is coming from someone you know and trust. That’s the idea behind peer education – instead of a stranger talking to you about your choices, you are receiving judgment-free information from someone you can relate to.
HIV peer education is essential to HIV prevention and it’s easy to do. Here’s how you can practice it every day and become an HIV awareness advocate in your community.
Talk About Sex
Sex is commonplace. Talking about sex, however, can still be difficult for some people. To start a conversation about sex, it is important to be open and non-judgmental. Instead of focusing on the act itself, talk about the risks that come with having unprotected sex and what you can do to minimize those risks.
If a friend is hooking up with someone new, you can casually ask if they are using condoms. Condoms are highly effective at preventing HIV transmission and offer protection against many other STI’s.
Talk About Substance Use
For many people, alcohol and other substances are used to relax and have a good time. But, they can also cloud judgment and increase the likelihood of risky sex. While you can’t control other people’s actions, you can communicate to your peers that you never want to be unprepared if sex is on the table. Lead by example and always carry condoms.
Intravenous drug use is the second leading cause of HIV transmission in New Mexico. If you or someone you know are using intravenous drugs, you can practice HIV awareness by using clean needles every time. Needles can be easily exchanged for clean ones here.
Talk About HIV Testing
HIV is not a scary word and the more you say it, the less dangerous it will be. You can always mention that you’re going to get tested for HIV this week and invite your friends to come along. Even if they don’t get tested, they can see how easy and non-judgmental it is.
HIV testing is fast and FREE at UNM Truman Health Services. Walk-ins are always welcome! Call 505-925-7286 for more information.
Talk About HIV and Stop Stigma
For people who are at a higher risk for HIV infection, such as MSM and sex workers, HIV may be a delicate subject to bring up. But if we talk about HIV more and often, a greater number of people will know the risks and how to seek treatment.
HIV can be a shocking realization for anyone and it is too often perceived as a mark against self-worth. It is not. By practicing peer education, you can correct HIV stigma where it starts. If someone is talking about HIV as if it is the worst thing imaginable, you can inform them that HIV is 100% preventable and 100% treatable. You can remind them that diabetes is also a preventable disease that is not perceived as scary or threatening.
The goal of peer education is to communicate with people in a real way. HIV can happen to anyone, but it doesn’t have to. You can prevent transmission or seek treatment without judgment.
If you would like to become involved with our outreach and prevention community, contact us today.