Six Questions with San Diego Youth Services’ Program Manager Jan Stankus

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As a part of our mission to bring increased awareness of the amazing efforts of our local HIV/AIDS community and service organizations, Think Red Project (the non-profit organization behind Red Dress Party San Diego) will be publishing periodic blogs highlighting a beneficiary of the San Diego HIV Funding Collaborative (SDHDF). The SDHDF currently grants funds to 11 different HIV/AIDS service organizations in San Diego. #CelebrateImpact

The following is a Q&A with Jan Stankus, Program Manager at San Diego Youth Services (SDYS):

Question: In one sentence, what does your organization represent?
Jan Stankus: SDYS works with high risk youth and their families, we provide a multitude of services including shelter, mental health counseling,  health education, drop-in centers, transitional housing, and prevention and intervention services.

Q: Why is it still important to care about HIV/AIDS today?
JS: Our work with teens has shown us that many still have misconceptions about transmission and some believe that there is a cure and HIV/AIDS is no longer a health issue.

Q: What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your clientele?
JS: How little good information is given to youth about STI/HIV as well as how few opportunities are provided to youth to discuss healthy relationships within a sex positive format.

Q: How does your organization use the money granted from the HIV Funding Collaborative?
JS: We provide youth with HIV/STI health education groups in a youth friendly format that offers accurate information. We also incorporate a sex positive message in our groups and discuss options with youth including PreP.

Q: What are the needs in the local HIV/AIDS community that you think have not been met or can be improved upon?
JS: We need to continue to provide accurate and updated information that targets our high risk population and take into consideration the age groups, diversity and special needs of our communities. We can always improve on encouraging that our clients test and make access to testing easy. As a community we need to persevere in carrying the message  of safer sex, healthy relationships and responsibility to yourself and others when it comes to sexual health.

Q: What’s one thing you’d like to tell today’s youth or younger generation? Or what type of change would you like to see people make in the fight against HIV/AIDS?
JS: I would like to tell them that STI/HIV testing should be a regular part of their health care, that HIV has not been cured, and they can be the generation that will eliminate HIV transmission. I would also like them to learn about local resources for health and education.

For more information about SDYS, please visit www.sdyouthservices.org.