ACON’s youth project Fun & Esteem turns 18 this week, and will mark the occasion by serving a greater number of young people.

New programs will include an after-school discussion group for under-18s, workshops on relationships and sex, and a group for young HIV-positive men.

The new group for under-18s, called School’s Out, will cover issues such as coming out, homophobic bullying, stereotypes, safe sex and the gay community.

We have been overwhelmed with demand for such a program since we successfully lobbied for the equal age of consent in NSW, ACON president Adrian Lovney said.

This new group has been designed specifically for 16- and 17-year-old gay men who can now legally access sexual health services.

To mark the project’s 18th anniversary a party will be held this Friday 9 June at Stonewall Hotel from 9pm. Hosted by Courtney Act, Fun & Esteem will launch new promotional materials at the event, including a new logo.

Established in 1988 as a peer education project on HIV prevention for gay and bisexual men aged 26 and under, Fun & Esteem was one the first programs of its kind.

Peer education back at that point was a new concept, Ben Bavinton, ACON’s senior youth peer education officer, told Sydney Star Observer.

The program has since been replicated all over Australia and the world, he said.

As well as educating about safe sex the group aims to empower young men to feel better about being gay and to meet other people from the gay community.

The strongest reason we get quoted for coming to the group is that they just want to meet other gay guys, Bavinton said.

It’s often guys who have tried different avenues of connecting to the community and they probably haven’t had too much success. They might have tried the online thing and they might have tried to go to a few different pubs and clubs, and they tend to still feel a little bit isolated and alienated.

He estimated more than 10,000 people had been through Fun & Esteem since it started.

There’s been a constant stream of people coming in to access the project, and that’s with almost no promotion over the last couple of years. It’s really word of mouth that’s kept the whole thing going, Bavinton said.

Contact Fun & Esteem on 9206 2077 or youth@acon.org.au.

© Star Observer 2017 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.