Providing Care for Youth in Detroit
Almost 7,500 PLWHA reside in Detroit, most of them Black MSM. Rates of HIV within this population have risen dramatically in recent years, according to the Michigan Department of Public Health. HIV has spiked most dramatically among Black gay youth, ages 13 to 19, despite aggressive awareness and outreach.
Though traditionally associated with care for HIV-positive women and their families, Part D of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program supports 17 grant programs focused on engaging HIV-positive youth, ages 13 to 24, in outreach and care.53 One of these is the Horizon Project, a program of Wayne State University School of Medicine, which provides young MSM, many of whom are African-American, with specifically targeted outreach, support, and care.
This is where “Jose Green” receives his care.54 He was 18 years old and newly graduated from high school when he learned of his status. Though not open about his sexuality, his mother, Rosa, says she knew he was gay. Together, they found Horizons and “got him into treatment right away,” she says. At a time when people still struggle with shame and stigma around HIV/AIDS, Rosa says she never missed a beat. “He is my son.”
It was at Horizons that Green found his voice as an advocate, and eventually joined the staff. Now in his early 30s, he lives in Washington, D.C., where he continues to tell his story for organizations like Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the CDC. He is a Horizons Project success story.
Angelique Outlaw, an assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine and the director of prevention/outreach services at Horizons, says their goal has always been to get young people like Green in care and keep them healthy. “It isn’t easy,” she says. “Many of the youth that come through the doors at Horizon don’t have a support system like Rosa Green in their corner.”
Instead, they are working through challenging living and family situations. “Often we have to help them tell their parents that they are HIV-positive,” Outlaw says. Her colleague, Dr. Salome Cokern, who serves as the Clinical Care Manager and Psychologist at the Horizons Project, says they work with youth in a very holistic way, and often connect them with a multidisciplinary team of doctors, social workers, and advocates.