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Friday, December 31, 2010

How the Elton John AIDS Foundation Is Supporting Gay Youth in Texas

By Brandon Miller -

It's been a good week for Elton John, right? In case you haven't heard, Mr. John and his longtime partner, David Furnish, welcomed a baby boy this week via a surrogate. I don't know how a 62-year-old has the energy for a newborn, but that's one lucky kid right there. I mean, think about the hairpieces, wigs and eyewear alone. Dress-up fun!
But Mr. John doesn't only have his focus set on his child. Instead, he has put his money where his mouth is and shown that he truly cares about LGBT people, and about gay youth in particular. Even with babies on the brain, The Elton John AIDS Foundation made a generous $25,000 donation to a Texas organization this holiday.
Out Youth is based in Austin, Texas. The agency supports LGBT youth between the ages of 12 and 19, providing a variety of services. Predictably, the Elton John AIDS Foundation put forth the money to help in HIV prevention, testing and counseling.
"It's critical that GLBTQ youth have regular access to confidential HIV testing and counseling," says Monrovia Van Hoose, the clinical director of the organization.  Staff, clinical interns and volunteers have received intensive training to provide testing and counseling for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections."
The campaign that the Foundation specifically donated to is called KYSS, which stands for "Knowing Your Status is Smart." According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 50 percent of HIV diagnoses for people between 13 and 24 (from 2003-2006) were due to male-to-male sexual contact. Men who have sex with men (MSM) remains the largest transmission category for HIV in the United States and from 2001 to 2006, HIV/AIDS diagnoses in MSM increased the most in the 13 to 24 age group.
The figures only get more frightening when you look at men of color, who have even higher transmission rates. But what the Elton John AIDS Foundation can help with the most is the KYSS mission to make people aware of their statuses. A whopping 77 percent of urban MSM who tested HIV positive as part of the CDC study did not know they were infected. We are talking about $25,000 well-spent and much appreciated.
"This generous grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation is a tremendous holiday present for Out Youth and the youth served by our organization," says Executive Director Candice Towe.


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