(Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of ETR as an agency.)
By Jennifer Salerno, DNP | January 5, 2017
Founder, Possibilities for Change
How sexually active—and sexually risky—are today’s teens?
Scientific studies continue to support the notion that teens today actually have less sex than their parents did as teens. Yet nearly one in four teens will become pregnant by age 20, and half of the new STDs in the U.S. each year occur among people between the ages of 15 and 24. While these trends may seem contradictory and even a little bit confusing, one thing is for sure: our nation’s conversation about sex and sexual health is changing, and it’s a pivotal time for providers of all types to be a part of the discussion.
By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | November 10, 2016
Senior Editor, ETR
STD rates are up. The CDC noted in a recent press release that reported STDs are at an “unprecedented high” in the U.S.
This sort of news is undeniably discouraging for those of us working the sexual and reproductive health arena. After all, we’ve been feeling rather upbeat and hopeful about the impressive drop in unplanned teen pregnancies—rates are down more than half over the past 20 years. A combination of factors seems responsible for that change, including pregnancy prevention programs. It’s great to feel like we’ve done something right that has played a role in these positive outcomes.
So what’s gone wrong when it comes to STDs?
By Lanz Lowen, MS, MA and Blake Spears, MBA | November 2, 2016
Senior Consultant, The Mandana Group and Independent Healthcare Consultant
What are the relationships of young gay men like today? It can be surprisingly difficult to answer this question with confidence. Little research is being done on gay male couples—how they build and sustain their relationships, what they think about monogamy and marriage, what they believe about the attitudes of their peers.
We did a self-funded study in 2010 called Beyond Monogamy. We wanted to know more about the experiences of long-term non-monogamous male couples. Because we were examining long-term relationships, we had, by definition, an older cohort participate in the study. But we’d been hearing that younger gay men had some different perspectives. This year, we completed our Choices study, which focused on gay men ages 18-40 and explored attitudes and practices about monogamy and marriage.
We discovered a lot of interesting things. Younger gay men do value monogamy more than their older counterparts. They also believe in marriage. Some are applying a practice we call “being monogamish”—not exactly monogamous, but not wide open. Virtually all of our respondents believe that communicating with partners about their sexual lives is a vital part of having a successful relationship.
Our study also affirmed the wonderful and creative diversity found in male couples. I think this is useful information for anyone working with gay men, and for young gay men themselves. These men have found many ways to build strong, healthy and loving relationships—strategies we believe would be useful for all populations.
By Jim Pickett | October 11, 2016
Director of Prevention Advocacy and Gay Men's Health, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
PrEP has altered the landscape in HIV prevention in extraordinary and profound ways. It’s changing the lives of vulnerable individuals. It’s also bringing about big changes for the HIV workforce—health care providers, prevention specialists, outreach workers, social workers, educators and more. In fact, I believe we’ve entered the most dynamic period in our fight against HIV since 1996, when the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy revolutionized treatment and saved countless lives.
The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) collaborates with a range of providers throughout our city and state. And they prove the point. People who could benefit from PrEP are excited about a new option for HIV prevention beyond latex. Providers are newly inspired by the possibilities. And—if you’ll allow me an indulgent moment of pride—a working group of local organizations (including AFC) has put together a beautiful, sex-positive social marketing campaign about PrEP that is truly unique.
By Jennifer Salerno, DNP | October 6, 2016
Founder, Possibilities for Change
Whether you’re a parent or an individual who works with youth, you are placed in an influential role to help keep teens safe and healthy. But that’s no easy task!
Risky behaviors account for the majority of teen injury and premature death. In the face of these challenges, educators, providers and parents need concrete strategies to support teens in smart decision making.
The research of my team at Possibilities for Change, along with my work at the School Based Health Center Program and the Adolescent Health Initiative at the University of Michigan, have introduced evidence-based practices and principles that support better communication with teens. In our work, we leverage motivational interviewing techniques to encourage teens to think through their motivations, plan ahead for risky situations and feel empowered to make positive choices. Our ultimate goal is that they make safe and healthy decisions for themselves.
By Kymm Ballard, EdD | September 13, 2016
Executive Director, SPARK
Ask an educator, “What do you most want for your students?” Chances are the answer will be, “Success.”
The math teacher wants students to master the concepts in the semester’s curriculum. The health education teacher wants students to learn how to establish healthy habits and make good choices about risks. The PE teacher might focus on building sports skills and encouraging a commitment to lifelong physical activity. The principal might address a combination of academic learning and positive social connection.
I’ve worked as an educator, and been working around educators, for a long time. My interest in physical education and healthy students spans my entire career. When I hear educators describe what they see as student success, I want to shout out, “Physical activity is linked to all of these frameworks. It makes sense for you and every other educator to support more physical activity in your students lives!”
And that means making it part of every student’s experience at school, all through the day, every day.
By Cassidey Streber, MA | August 25, 2016
Program Coordinator, Youth Services of Tulsa, Adolescent Health/PregNOT
A student I’ll call Shay came in and sat at the back of my classroom. It was the first class meeting. Other students came bounding in, adding a bit of lively chaos to the mix.
I surveyed the students as they settled and we got started. I took note of Shay in particular. Shoulders up. Sighing. Arms crossed. Uncrossed. Looking out the window. Scribbling on a piece of paper. Not interacting with other students. Not looking at me. Not really there.
And then, as we got into the lesson, something happened. Shay sat up and began to watch me. Eyes furrowed, then a smile, then—amazingly—a question and comment from this student. Shay had become part of the class and was engaged in the lesson.
I know exactly what brought Shay into the process. In my language and the activities I brought to the class, I was offering a setting that was inclusive, authentic and safe for students of any sexual identity or gender. Shay, a student from the LGBTQ community, experienced the class as relevant and welcoming.
Cassidey Streber was one of the presenters in a recent webinar hosted by the Office of Adolescent Health. It is called, “How to Make it Happen: LGBTQ Inclusivity.” You can find links to the slides, audio recording and written transcript here. (Scroll down to June 2, 2016.)
By Robin Perlas | July 11, 2016
Training Coordinator, ETR
Last week will go down in history as one of the bloodiest in US history. In the few days following our nation’s Independence Day holiday weekend, racially-charged gun violence took the lives of a number of civilians as well as five police officers. Investigations are ongoing and many facts remain to be uncovered. What we do know is that a lot of people are in mourning, and our country is once again divided at its core.
I’m not writing to share the bloody details of these recent events. There has been enough coverage in news reports and videos on social media to make any heart succumb to grief. I’m not even here to talk about the abundance of scholarly research and governmental investigative reports that clearly indicate there are very real systemic inequalities in US society based on race and socioeconomic status, especially when it comes to law enforcement and police brutality. These are facts that cannot be disputed.
My purpose in writing this post is to share the one thing that remains absolutely clear to me during all this mayhem and confusion: regardless if we’re black, white, brown or blue, we all want our lives to matter.
By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | June 27, 2016
Senior Editor, ETR
The entire month of June is celebrated the world over as LGBTQ Pride month. This year, I started the celebration June 6 in my hometown of Santa Cruz, California. A few hundred marchers walked about a quarter of a mile along our downtown avenue, cheered on by neighbors and friends.
There were plenty of families and kids, dogs, bubbles, fairy wings and rainbow-themed accessories. The parade was over in 45 minutes. It was lovely and low-key. My wife and I talked about the easy-going vibe of the festival. The LGBTQ community achieved nationally recognized marriage equality in 2015, and now, in 2016, the fire and fury seemed to have quieted down.
And then Orlando happened.
By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | June 15, 2016
Senior Editor, ETR
Our nation has been engaged in a vital dialogue over the past couple of weeks about sexual violence. The so-called “Stanford rape case” has people talking about risk, responsibility and consequences. It has also shined a light on some of the particular issues related to sexual violence on college campuses.
This seemed like a good moment to take a look at some past posts from the ETR blog addressing the prevention of sexual violence.
By ETR | June 13, 2016
Like others all around the world, we are stunned and devastated by this past weekend’s events in Orlando.
We stand with the people of Orlando and the LGBTQ community there. We stand with LGBTQ communities across the nation, and with all who cherish freedom, liberty and justice.
Our hearts are broken, but our will is undeterred. Peace to Orlando. Peace to us all.
By BA Laris, MPH | June 9, 2016
Research Associate, ETR
How do we keep our sanity at work? How many times have you heard that question?
How do we provide the best services and products possible? How do we meet the needs of our clients and customers? Our co-workers, our supervisors? Our Board of Directors and funders? How do we do all this and still maintain a healthy family and social life?
Yes. I admit it. I use my “out of the office” message regularly!
The first week of June every year, I spend seven days on my bicycle, riding with over 2,000 other cyclists. We travel the 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of AIDS Lifecycle. We raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
By Amy Peterson, MSc | June 6, 2016
Project Coordinator, ETR
A few weeks ago I attended a symposium on the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing in London. The symposium marked the launch of the third and most comprehensive report the Commission has produced on the state of global adolescent health.
With over 1.8 billion young people aged 10-24 years old in the world, the promotion of healthy adolescents could have huge benefits to social and economic outcomes globally. Yet, historically, adolescents have largely been left out. They’ve lacked representation in global health indicators and a voice in the conversation about their own health and well-being.
The Lancet Commission represents a shift in the way we frame adolescent health. It elevates the importance of social determinants of health and young people's right to participate in the health discourse.
This Commission resonates and aligns with ETR’s work in the area of adolescent health, particularly sexual and reproductive health. In the report, as in ETR’s work, social determinants and neurodevelopment play a significant role in the discussion.
By Donald Powell, MHS | June 6, 2016
Senior Director of Policy & Development, Exponents
When I was first asked to prepare something to commemorate National Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, writing has always been my primary way to educate, process emotions and create.
But as I sat at my computer, I began to feel a little apprehensive. As an African American man with southern origins, I started to second guess my right to attempt this endeavor. Was I the person to speak to this commemoration?
I have worked as an HIV preventionist for more than two decades. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside several powerful men and women of Caribbean descent. They have transformed and enhanced my understanding of how the intersection of ethnicity, HIV, gender identity and sexual orientation often plays out in Caribbean communities, and in other Black American communities as well. So I speak today to honor the achievements of this community and what I have learned from them.
By Raymond Blossom | June 2, 2016
Prevention Supervisor, Touchstone Health Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program
Note: Raymond Blossom participated in a recent training delivered by ETR Professional Development staff. We asked him to share some of his reflections after the event.
I grew up in the South Bay area of San Diego, California. There is a lot to witness there, a lot to learn and a lot to take in.
It is true there are beautiful beaches and weather that makes you never want to leave. But outside looking in, you may not see the lives lost too often to gang violence, families struggling to make ends meet, and the lack of opportunity for many young men and women.
As a teen, some of my closest friends were becoming parents before high school graduation. I never imagined I would one day have the opportunity to teach prevention and sexual health to teens, and to let young men and women know they do not have to become a statistic.
By Cody Sigel, MPH, CHES | May 19, 2016
Professional Development Consultant, ETR
The history of sex education in the United States is fraught with horror stories, from fear-based tactics to blatant misinformation. Sadly, ineffective sex education is not a thing of the past. A recent CDC report shows that most middle and high schools around the country are not implementing effective approaches to sexuality education. It’s no surprise that statistics about the impact of STDs on young people are discouraging.
What’s more discouraging perhaps is that we have answers and proven effective programs and strategies that we could use to bring about positive change. When it comes to framing our messaging around STD prevention with youth, we should be using research to guide us to results!
Let’s take a look at four educational strategies educators can easily apply. Trust the science and the behavior change theories of public health and we will see a difference!
By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | May 16, 2016
Senior Editor, ETR
My car rolled to a stop at a crosswalk. A young man strode across my path. Even with my tired, end-of-a-long-workday brain, I noticed his confident bearing. He stared ahead, eyes slightly narrowed. His cap was pulled low on his forehead.
And then I did a double take. The young man was actually a client in my psychotherapy practice—a young lesbian I had just seen in a session. She glanced my way, smiled and nodded, and we both moved on.
A post by Emmie Matsuno on the Psychology Benefits Society blog (American Psychological Association) brought this memory, and that client, to mind. It’s titled, “Are You a Boy or Girl? No: Living Outside the Gender Binary.”
By Thao Ha, PhD | May 9, 2016
Assistant Research Professor, Arizona State University
Know any teens who’ve fallen in love lately? Chances are that you do. Most teenagers have been in love or have been involved in a serious romantic relationship by age 18 (Carver, Joyner & Udry). While teens often do not share their romantic experiences with adults, those of us working with adolescents—educators, health providers, researchers, community workers—need the best understanding possible of young people’s romantic relationships. Specific points before, during and after a relationship can create vulnerabilities in adolescents’ lives.
Romantic relationships offer teens wonderful opportunities to pursue some positive developmental tasks. But when things go wrong in a teen’s relationship, there is a potential to trigger a range of problems. These moments may also offer adults an entry into adolescents’ world at a time when our support can be invaluable.
By Laura Norvig, MLIS | May 3, 2016
Digital Media Strategies, ETR
During my first 12 years at ETR, I worked on a project that had little to do with sexual and reproductive health. Still, ETR being an organization that does a lot of work in that field, I got used to seeing things around the office such as a box full of wooden condom demonstrators (i.e., penis models), or a giant drawing of an anatomically correct vulva on a designer’s computer screen.
Since ETR started blogging, I’ve really enjoyed reading more about the work my colleagues and our partners do. Michael Everett’s deeply thoughtful piece about Black men who have sex with men and who also happen to be HIV service providers was a window into a new world. Luca Maurer’s post about training educators and service providers on transgender issues opened my eyes to a very real problem: “traditional approaches in education and service provision have rarely incorporated strategies that include or affirm transgender people.”
Sometimes, though, I feel I just don’t know enough about some of the populations ETR’s materials and trainings are designed to help. Hey, I’m a cisgender over-fifty mom. Like a lot of people in this country, I get most of my impressions of transgender people from fictional and reality TV shows like I Am Cait, I Am Jazz, and Transparent.
By Vanessa Johnson, JD, with Jacqueline Peters | April 28, 2016
Director, Ribbon Consulting Group
Jacqueline Peters: This is the fourth in a series of posts about women who have chosen to become trainers and facilitators for the CDC’s WILLOW program. I hope you’ll take a look at Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 as well. These women are inspiring!
Vanessa Johnson: My personal fight with HIV is tied to the loss of family members, friends and co-workers in the 25 years since I was first diagnosed myself. It is in their memory, and because of my own motivation to live the best life I can, that I am involved in the field. My journey has taken me beyond the disease itself. I am exploring and advocating for the essential services we need to keep our communities disease-free and offer protections for people who are still severely stigmatized.
By Christina Murphy, with Jacqueline Peters | April 27, 2016
HIV Navigator, Indigenous Peoples Task Force
Jacqueline Peters: In Part 1 of this blog post, I described some of my experiences as a trainer for the WILLOW training of facilitators in Atlanta. In Part 2, I asked Alesia Miller to share some of her thoughts about the experience and the program. Today we hear from another participant, Tina Murphy.
Christina Murphy: It has always been my passion and calling to be in the service of helping others, in all communities, especially in our communities of color. I care deeply about the ongoing health disparities and social justice issues we all continue to face. My journey started with Tobacco Prevention/Cessation. It continues to build on that foundation, and now I am doing HIV prevention work.
By Alesia Miller with Jacqueline Peters | April 22, 2016
Willow Leader, Empower U & Trainer, ETR
Jacqueline Peters: In Part 1 of this blog post, I described some of my experiences as a trainer for the WILLOW training of facilitators in Atlanta. I asked one of the participants, Alesia Miller, to share some of her thoughts about the experience and the program.
Alesia Miller: My motivation to be a WILLOW leader has changed from the beginning up to now. As I continue along in this process, I've experineced the changes of how this disease is experienced by the newly diagnosed versus the long term survivors.
By Jacqueline Peters | April 21, 2016
Logistics Specialist & WILLOW Trainer, ETR
I am an excited and fortunate woman. I recently completed the process to become a Certified Trainer for the WILLOW program. I’m meeting some incredible people and being given the opportunity to make a genuine difference in the HIV prevention effort. And after my experiences so far, I know one thing for certain. In WILLOW, people have stories to tell.
By Louise Ann Lyon, PhD | April 19, 2016
Senior Research Associate, ETR
Getting a degree in computer science can be tough. In the name of “rigor,” computer science and related fields have established a structured hierarchy of course prerequisites. These need to be taken in a specific sequence. Often, however, the necessary classes aren’t offered every term. This situation forces college students to plan their schedules carefully or risk being delayed in their education.
I have sat in on many faculty meetings watching heated debates about how much math, science and computer science should be required of college graduates claiming a computer science major. But what are the implications of these decisions for who persists in computer science? And how much of this is truly necessary to prepare students for the current workplace versus simply keeping things the way they have always been?
Or, as I have been asking lately, is this about maintaining “rigor,” or just keeping out the “riff raff”?
By Barb Flis | April 14, 2016
Founder, Parent Action for Healthy Kids
Are parents resisting comprehensive sex education in our schools? They’re certainly taking the rap for this. I still wonder why this is so when the polar opposite is true—parents are far more likely to be allies and advocates.
Too often, when it comes to sex ed, we fear parents rather than embrace them. I’d like to suggest a re-frame. Parents can be powerful people when we need support for effective sex education in schools.