Young rural same-sex attracted and transgender Victorians will soon be targeted by health and wellbeing messages their city counterparts have received for years.
A new state government-funded program addressing HIV and STI prevention among young people in rural and regional areas will include a public campaign in Gippsland in February.
Mind The Gap project officer Tess Atkinson told Southern Star the project stems from identifying that rural GLBTIQ people experience high levels of isolation and discrimination and face difficulties accessing appropriate information.
“Same-sex attracted and gender-diverse people are disproportionately represented in statistics in sexual health, homelessness, suicide and drug and alcohol use,” Atkinson said.
“Recent studies show a range of negative experiences as a result of heterosexism… Mind The Gap will target the complexities of health and wellbeing.”
The project is being run by Family Planning Victoria (FPV), in conjunction with Victorian Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations, the Centre for Adolescent Health, and Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS, to raise awareness of health issues, especially among men who have sex with men.
The Department of Human Services has committed to funding the project until 2012.
Promoted by the state Ministerial Advisory Committee on GLBTI Health, the project will take a three-step approach to addressing the wellbeing of rural GLBTIQ young people.
Already 14 GLBTIQ people between the ages of 18 – 28 have attended the first of three retreats to learn leadership skills through a youth program called Q&A.
A social networking website will be established so GLBTIQ people can connect with friends as well as gain access to important sexual health information.
According to the FPV, the project was implemented as a result of an overall “dramatic” increase in STIs throughout Victoria, with syphilis and HIV at high levels in recent years, particularly in men who have sex with men.
The program will also target the Indigenous community.

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