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The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois HIV Planning Group (ILHPG) has issued an application flyer and application for ILHPG’s Youth Advisory Group. The application must be submitted no later than 5 p.m., August 19, 2016. When sharing this news with youth, grantees and other stakeholders, consider that prospective advisory group members must be 18-24 years of age, should be able to commit to a two-year membership term, and should have access to the internet and/or a telephone for group meetings.

No more than two members will be selected from each HIV Region (including two members from the city of Chicago)Selection of new members will be made to best reflect the demographic and transmission characteristics of the HIV epidemic among youth in Illinois. There is a possibility that the ILHPG may cover registration and lodging costs of Youth Advisory Group members who wish to attend the 25th Annual HIV/ STD conference in Springfield, IL (October 25–27), but this is pending and subject to change. 

The primary goal of the ILHPG is to bring the voices of communities that are at highest risk of HIV infection to the forefront in HIV planning. Because current HIV data shows that rates of new infections continue to rise disproportionately among youth, especially gay and bisexual youth of color, there is a special need for youth to be included in HIV planning efforts. Obtaining input from and listening to youth perspectives is valuable to HIV planning because it allows us to better understand the knowledge that youth possess about HIV and HIV risk behaviors, to assess and identify knowledge gaps, and to learn from the shared experiences and observations of youth. Armed with this input, the ILHPG is better prepared to provide IDPH with guidance and recommendations to develop and/or enhance HIV programs that target or serve youth, which should ultimately lead to less HIV infections. 

Although the ILHPG has recruited youth members (aged 18-24) in the past, engaging and retaining them has been difficult as they are often unable to fulfill all membership requirements (attendance and engagement in ILHPG meetings, participation in committee work and trainings, etc.). This is understandable as youth, in general, are often not at places in their young lives where they are able to commit to the responsibilities of a planning group. The high-risk youth we recruit as members often face other unique barriers and challenges that can further interfere with their ability to commit to full membership on the planning group.

In an effort to better involve youth in HIV planning in Illinois, the IDPH HIV/AIDS Section, the ILHPG Evaluation Committee, and other stakeholders with youth expertise have been working to plan for the creation of an HIV Youth Advisory Group to compliment the work of the ILHPG.  The initial plans for the group include conducting interactive, online and/ or teleconference meetings for youth to engage in. Youth members will be encouraged to bring their experiences and insight about HIV care and prevention and related services to the attention of their peers as the group works autonomously, with guidance from IDPH and the ILHPG, to establish group goals, objectives, and activities. Any recommendations made by the Youth Advisory Group will be brought to the ILHPG and IDPH for their consideration.  We hope that the opportunity to positively influence youth-specific HIV prevention and care planning and services in Illinois will motivate youth from across the state to participate in this unique group.

Thank you in advance for your efforts to ensure that this message and application reaches youth who would be interested in bringing their experiences and perspectives to this group in order to better their communities. For more information, contact:

Marleigh Voigtmann
Illinois Department of Public Health
HIV/AIDS Section
HIV Community Planning Intern
217-524-9005 (Work Phone)
217-557-3675 (Work Fax)
Marleigh.voigtmann@illinois.gov

Please note: Regular work days are Tuesday–Friday.