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For two days in September, I attended a class taught by the Mississippi Health Department to become a certified HIV and STI instructor. While I really enjoyed the course, I do not feel that my instructors have a really good grasp of cultural sensitivity. The instructors stressed during the two days that we should always research the culture that we will be presenting to, and to ensure that we remain appropriate with our teachings.
I am not sure that these instructors were really aware of what cultural sensitivity is. One of the instructors used an example of teaching an instructor course on the Choctaw reservation in Mississippi. This instructor told of how she did do any research beforehand and was not aware that they did not like being referred to as American Indians. She continuously spoke about the people of the Choctaw, and still referred to them as a whole as American Indians. This is an issue, because cultural sensitivity should not be about JUST being culturally sensitive whenever you’re around a certain group of people.
Another area of cultural the instructors did not succeed at being sensitive to was the LGBTQ community. I know that it is wishful thinking for full acceptance here in Mississippi, but healthcare instructors know more than most that they work closely with members of the community, and as such should remain appropriate. They should not be joking around with members of the class about how”I don’t know what they do”. It is not appropriate, and frankly, I am tired of instructors thinking it is okay to just use the vague term of “they” for communities they do not understand or belong to. As instructors, they should be held accountable, especially when speaking to another class. I understand using specific examples of where you messed up in cultural sensitivity, but seriously, at least continue to be aware of being culturally insensitive and apply it everywhere.
Since attending this course, I have taught a few STI/HIV Prevention courses myself. My instructors stressed the need to tailor each presentation to fit whatever group of people I am presenting to. However, the only thing that needs to be changed when talking to different groups of people is the statistics concerning the STI/HIV infection rate for the demographic of people being presented; as well as where that group of people can get STI/HIV testing and where condoms can be obtained. When my instructors explained to my class about how to tailor these courses, we were to do research to ensure that we did not use racial slurs to offend people we are teaching to. While I understand the need to tailor presentations towards the group you are presenting to, it is always important to remain respectful at all times of all groups of people. I am by no means an expert on cultural sensitivity, however in order to best remain culturally sensitive, we must hold each other accountable.

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“We aren’t spreading any evil. Women deserve only to stay inside. Within the cover of their sheets. Have you not seen how attractive women have destroyed the lives of men?” This is what a cleric had to say on the rile of women.

“Women are the worst of evil and the biggest of distraction” A priests words.

“Women are not supposed to be let free. Its just like letting a wild lion free and expecting it to help you and love you- Not eat you” These were the words of a Pundit on twitter.

Accepted the fact that religion is a very important part of our lives but is it okay for religion to be a method through which one can oppress another? I think not! We can not let religion destroy and take away the fundamental right of every human. Preaching is different, teaching religion is different but enforcing it upon every other person is an absolute crime!

We might  be born to a family of any religion but does that make us unequal? Can we label a woman wearing a skirt as evil? Can we label her clothes permiscous whilst we have no problem with men in shorts? The basic thing that each and every society needs to understand is the fact that religion can be taught but not enforced. Enforcing religion is nothing less than a crime.

A person has the right full to self determination and live as however he pleases. There can be no rule as to how he or she chooses to wear.

Although to many this might seem a very incredible thing but in reality there are many occasion where women are forced to stay inside, wear what has been indoctrinated to wear through a system of corrupt ideas and yet they are still happy with that. They are abused, beaten and face a huge amount of inequality but still they are told to stay shut since saving an emotionless marriage is more important for than living a happy life. The idea of using “The Day of Judgement Theory” to convince people into committing atrocious acts in absolutely absurd and needs to change.

We might say, but we never do. We need to work towards improving living conditions for women in any and all areas where they are mistreated and subject to inequality. We need to empower those who give us birth!

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I sit here at my desk and try so hard to go back. To figure out which experience has stuck out the most during my time with Alabama Alliance. Which experience is extraordinary enough to write about?

Is it Washington?

…..Well, I gotta be honest. My time in Washington was pretty darn awesome – I had never been to D.C. before, and it was during this trip where I went through many “firsts”. I saw the United States capitol for the first time, slept in a swanky hotel (by far the nicest I’ve ever slept in), and most importantly for once in my life I was surrounded by a mass of young people who fiercely and unapologetically stood up for what they believed was right. People who were silly and funny and beautiful and kind…..and also hella intelligent, informed, and focused. I have to admit, I was in awe, and, admittedly, full of doubt. Full of doubt because I didn’t know if I was cut out for this kind of work. I was full of doubt because I had no idea about my state’s laws, and bills. I didn’t know who was in legislation, and I kept messing up people’s pronouns. I just didn’t know! However, as the week progressed and I listened to the stories of these young people around the world – felt their passion, understood their vulnerability and strength – I realized that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Now I’m cooking.

Even though my time in D.C. was unforgettable, a word keeps bugging me, and I just know I’ve got to mention it here:


Feel that?

I did. I felt it both my fall AND spring semesters at UAB. I’m this twenty-year-old girl (woman?) who had just gotten dumped for the first time (after which I shaved my hair out of a burst of confusion and rebellion), all of my friends were convinced that I was going bonkers, and I was struggling financially. I looked like a boy. I was broke. I was isolated. I was up to my neck in assignments. And, on top of everything, my Alliance coordinator wanted me to walk around and talk to others about how important comprehensive sex education is in Alabama’s schools. Typing it out now, these seem like hilarious and trivial stressors compared to what many people suffer through, but, at the time, I was feeling terrible about myself.

This mixture of self-rejection, doubt, and uncertainty soon solidified into feelings of determination, focus, and passion, and it all began with me asking my customers to sign my Alabama Alliance informational cards at the pizza place I worked for at the time. Sure: many customers would be completely for what I was advocating (the passing of HB252). Unfortunately, many wouldn’t even entertain the idea! Some completely dismissed my message with the flick of a wrist. Suddenly, I was face to face with the brick wall of rejection, and I began to care about the Alliance’s cause more than I ever had in the past. Here were people telling what would not happen in Alabama no matter how hard we worked. A creeping feeling of inferiority crept in and doubt was on the horizon, however, this time things were different. This time it dawned on me that these were the people who held Alabama back from growing into something amazing. These were the type of people who could affect the way children are treated in school. These were the type of people who could affect rates of STD’s and teenage pregnancies in Alabama….but yet they didn’t care. I wanted them to listen. I knew it was time to amplify my voice.

Unfortunately, I met some of these types of people during Youth Advocacy Day in Montgomery. Rejection was in the air when we all went to the state capitol in order to lobby on this day. It was fun, and informative, and another great opportunity to meet some amazing people who their passionate about social and reproductive justice. However, I vividly remember one instance when the little group I was lobbying with spoke about HB252 to a particular representative. He stated that the bill we advocated was “against his religious beliefs” and he proceeded to say that because of this he could not support it. Wait, I thought, isn’t church and state supposed to be separate?  On the bus ride back to Birmingham I was already thinking of ways to get signatures for a petition in support of the bill.

I love my state. Alabama has much to offer. But I realize that there’s much work to do in order for its full potential to be reached. As corny as this might seem, I view Alabama as a twisted, neglected plant that needs caring and nurturing in order to grow into something extraordinary which future generations can enjoy. I know in my heart this vision will come to be as long as others slide into the empty roles (or, better yet, create their own!) that need to be filled by empathetic and far-seeing leaders. Alabama can be just as progressive as Colorado or California if we all link together and take the necessary steps – despite of those walls of rejection.


Categories: Safer Sex
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Let us be real for a moment, and talk about what black people are really owed. We need 400 years of power and privilege the chance to actually be citizens of America. We need police to recognize that being black is not a crime. We need stereotypes to be demolished. We need to have our culture back, stop saying things are new and improved and “urban” when black people have been doing it forever. Give us our ebonics and stop trying to understand it. Let us have the “N” word because it is ours to have we shouldn’t have to ask for that.  We need to be able to wear our hair like the crowns that they are and crush assimilation. Don’t tell me 40 acres and a mule is enough when who we are as people has completely been erased. Give us our power and our privilege. A revolution is rising from the riots in Baltimore to Michael Browns memorial we are coming for what we are owed. In peace and power we will rise. A nation we built we can bring down.

-Beautifully Brown

Categories: Racism
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We reached out to you to sign a petition urging President Obama to prioritize young people in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy – and you came through. Now we’re calling on you again.

Vote to prioritize young people in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

The Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) is asking the public to vote on which strategies are the most important to reaching an AIDS-free generation. We’ve submitted a recommendation that the strategy prioritize young people, the only segment of the population for whom HIV rates continue to increase. Voting through ONAP’s system is one more way to make our demands heard.

With one click you can let the Obama Administration know that prioritizing young people in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is crucial.



Tweet now!Vote to prioritize young people in the National #HIV/#AIDS Strategy! http://bit.ly/1KfQJwx



tweet-now-toutBecause young people are the only segment of the population for whom HIV rates continue to increase in this country, vote to prioritize young people in the National #HIV/#AIDS Strategy! http://bit.ly/1KfQJwx

Categories: Uncategorized
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This blog post is part of the Sex Ed Road Trip, a blog series uplifting youth activists work from across the country working towards comprehensive sex education. Today’s stop is in Ohio!

Last month Ohio Youth Leadership Council members lobbied their state legislators and ask for comprehensive sex education in all schools. Under the current law, Ohio requires that sex education be taught in schools but says nothing about it being comprehensive, medically accurate or age-appropriate. Ohio House Bill 132 would include a provision to the current sex education law to ensure that any sex education must be comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate.

“My experience in Columbus was precious like every other moment I spend advocating for real world issues. As a young lesbian I was extremely honored to meet State Representative Nickie Antonio who is the first open lesbian representative. I’m reminded every day that the world is changing and becoming a more accepting environment when I meet people like her. Once again the experience in Columbus was amazing, and I continue to love the work I do with the Ohio Youth Leadership Council!” – Adalia, Ohio Youth Leadership Council member

Join Adalia and make your voice heard. Sign the petition today.

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As activists from the U.S and around the world, will you stand in solidarity with your LGBT identified friends and peers on May 17?

Over the course of this year alone, we have seen an escalation of violence and harassment targeting LGBT people across the globe. The harmful targeting of LGBT youth, or persons perceived to be LGBT, continues to threaten young people’s human rights as well as their ability to lead healthy, safe, and successful lives. Which is why we must stand up, not just on The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (May 17), but every day.

Join us in condemning discrimination and violence towards LGBT youth by sharing why you will speak out against homophobia and transphobia by downloading one of these #IDAHOT signs.


And stand with LGBT young people and their allies all over the world and speak up to demand our rights.

Even with the threat of harsh words, prison and violence, I am constantly amazed by the work of youth activists around the world who are tirelessly working to address homophobia and transphobia in their communities. Their work doesn’t stop, therefore neither does mine.

Thank you.

Urooj Arshad

Associate Director, Health Equity and Social Justice

Advocates for Youth

Tweet now!I speak out against homophobia and transphobia in the US and abroad. Do you? http://ow.ly/MZWCT #IDAHOT



tweet-now-toutStand with Advocates to show discrimination of LGBT young people will not be tolerated. Share why you speak out against homophobia and transphobia. http://ow.ly/MZWCT #IDAHOT

Categories: Uncategorized
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This blog post is part of the Sex Ed Road Trip, a blog series uplifting youth activists work from across the country working towards comprehensive sex education. Today’s stop is in Alabama!

Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth (AA4HY) has been hard at work this year organizing their communities around sexual health education at the state level. Last month AA4HY held their 3rd annual Youth Advocacy Day, where over 40 young people from across the state met with legislators to advocate for HB252 – a bill that would remove homophobic language from Alabama’s sex education law.

Here is a quote from Quincy, AA4HY council member on how their advocacy has had an impact on his life.

“Advocacy has opened the door to a new fire passion for me. I’ve learned to be more comfortable with talking to people in my community. I’m more comfortable talking to other students about social injustices that exist today and more importantly I’m more comfortable with myself.” Quincy, council member of Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth

Want to know more about advocacy work in Alabama? Click here for the full video blog.

Join Quincy and make your voice heard. Sign the petition today.

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We’ve been cooped up in the office all winter…so we decided to hit the road!

We all know that comprehensive sex ed programs help young people stay healthy and avoid unintended pregnancy, HIV, and STIs.

But we wanted to hear from young people across the country about why comprehensive sex education is important to them and their peers, and essential to lead healthy lives.

So we gassed up the car and hightailed it across the country!

We’ve been visiting youth activists in Nevada, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama, and more, listening to their stories about the importance of culturally competent, LGBTQ inclusive and medically accurate sex education to them.

Want to hear what they said? Read the Sex Ed Road Trip blogs here!

If you want to show your support for our youth activists, sign the petition to support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act that dedicates federal funding to comprehensive sex education programs across the US!

Or, you can tweet at your Congressperson to support the bill here!

Happy travels!

Sophia Kerby

Advocates for Youth

Coordinator, State Policy and Partnerships


Tweet now!

.@AdvocatesTweets is hitting the road for the #SexEdRoadTrip! Wanna see where we’re headed next? Click -> http://ow.ly/MXQ6O



leftWe’ve been visiting youth activists across the country on our #SexEdRoadTrip taking about the importance of culturally competent, LGBTQ inclusive and medically accurate sex education to them. Want to hear what they said? Click here-> http://ow.ly/MXQ6O