PEI

Youth-led poster campaign tackles stigma around STBBIs on P.E.I.

The Island's PEERS Alliance has launched a new poster campaign called Clearing the Air aimed at informing youth and helping break down stigma surrounding sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.

'I think it's very important that youth seeing these materials feel like they can actually connect to it'

Rory Starkman, co-facilitator with PEERS Alliance for the STBBI poster campaign project. (Stephanie Kelly/CBC)

The Island's PEERS Alliance has launched a new poster campaign called Clearing the Air aimed at informing youth and helping break down stigma surrounding sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.

PEERS Alliance, formerly AIDS P.E.I., is a P.E.I. group that supports those living with and at risk for HIV, hepatitis C and all sexually transmitted infections by offering programs and services for diverse communities.

"What we're seeing now in terms of the rising rates of STBBIs is that it is happening within a lot of youth groups. And ... youth is the age group at which everybody feels invincible. And so they think they can't get these things," said Rory Starkman, the co-facilitator of the project.

Youth-led

It was important for the initiative to be youth-led, Starkman said. The campaign brought together five youth aged 16 to 24 who put together the artful information posters.

All together, the group has produced 13 different posters — some of them even use humour to encourage more engagement with the material.

The posters feature visual art created by youth volunteers, tackling STIs like HIV, chlamydia and the hepatitis C virus, says Rory Starkman who is the youth co-ordinator at PEERS Alliance. (Submitted by Rory Starkman)

"I think it's very important that youth seeing these materials feel like they can actually connect to it," Starkman said.

The posters will also eventually be translated into a social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram.

"Nobody really likes to talk about this stuff.... But if we are able to talk about it and get these services out and known and just kind of reduce the stigma of getting tested," said Kari Kruse, one of the youth participants in the poster campaign.

Youth and chlamydia

Two of the posters designed by youth volunteers with PEERS Alliance. (Stephanie Kelly/CBC)

"I get tested still and I'm in a monogamous relationship. I just think it's important to make sure you know what's going on with your health," said Kruse. 

The latest data shows that 329 cases of chlamydia were treated in 2017 on P.E.I. About 235 of those were people aged 20 to 34, and 62 cases were Islanders 20 and under.

Rates of gonorrhea on the Island more than doubled between 2012 and 2017 — from eight cases to 18 — according to the province.

PEERS Alliance plans to ask the Public Schools Branch, Holland College and UPEI to approve the posters so it can put them up.

'I get tested still and I'm in a monogamous relationship. I just think it's important to make sure you know what's going on with your health,' says Kari Kruse, one of the youth involved in the poster campaign.   (Stephanie Kelly/CBC)

For now they will be displayed in coffee shops, bars and a church, Starkman said.

"Ultimately from this campaign, I really hope that more youth talk to one another about sexual activity generally but also the potential for contracting an STBBI."

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