Activity: harm reduction and sexual health.
This is one of the questions on which participants are asked to reflect during Health Initiatives for Youth's (HIFY) Positive Sexuality and Youth, a two day training for adult providers who work with youth. As difficult as it sometimes is for adults to support positive sexual health in their own lives, we have found it even more difficult for adults to support positive sexuality among the youth with whom they work.
We find that adults often approach teen sexual health with apprehension. When they think about teens and sexuality, they tend not to focus on pleasure or safe experimentation or information sharing. Rather, we often hear them talk about disease, unintended pregnancy, or abuse. While these latter topics are a crucial part of any discussion with youth about sexual health, the persistent attention to these topics as the primary focus of discussion with teens can hinder young people's development into adults with healthy attitudes toward sex and sexuality.
In our Positive Sexuality and Youth training we combine presentation and analysis of basic theoretical concepts such as "adultism" and deficit-based approaches with interactive, kinesthetic activities through which participants may explore their own assumptions and boundaries around the subject of youth sexual health.
One such activity, "Harm Reduction and Sexual Health" challenges participants to think of at least one affirming statement and at least one harm reduction strategy to apply to a range of sexual acts in which the youth they work with might engage. Within the broader context of the two-day training, this activity helps participants think broadly about what constitutes risk and encourages them to be proactive in supporting youth practice of harm reduction strategies, regardless of what acts the youth may choose to engage in.
Putting positive sexuality (and harm reduction) into practice.
Introduction to Harm Reduction and Sexual Health:
Ask participants: "What is Harm Reduction?
Ask participants: "How does Harm Reduction (HR) relate to sexual acts and risks?"
Explain to participants: "Harm Reduction is an approach that aims to support healthy sexuality and reduce sex-related harm experienced by individuals and communities without necessarily changing or reducing the sexual activity itself."
In this exercise participants get a chance to role play, having conversations with youth about the youth's sexual behaviors.
* The facilitator places a piece of paper with a different sexual act on each person's back.
* The participants then circulate around the room talking to each other for a few minutes each, taking turns acting the part of the youth (regarding the sexual behavior) and the adult (in their role as educator or counselor).
* Judging from the statements the "adult" makes to each "youth," the "youth" should begin to guess which sexual act is taped on his or her back.
* Each interaction between the "adult" and the "youth" should include two elements: an affirming, sex positive statement that relates to the sexual act and a harm reduction suggestion.
Have participants place Harm Reduction strategies on a list. Ask participants to reflect on this list and their experiences with the activity. Some questions to ask include:
* Does the list explore ideas beyond barrier use?
* Did you ask "youth" you spoke to for options?
* Were you creative in imagining strategies that can reduce risk?
* Does the list reflect the fact that HR does not have to be disease prevention focused?
* Did you work with the "youth" you spoke with to enhance negotiation skills? How could this have helped?
* Did you discuss sexual anatomy and the physiology of pleasure? Why would this be important?
* Did anything you say to the "youth" you spoke with to empower him or her to make decisions? How did you/could you have done this?
* Did you explore the sexual likes and dislikes of the "youth you spoke with"? Why would this be important?
Health Initiatives for Youth
San Francisco, CA