Program to Help Bronx LGBTQ Youth

Presenters at Umbrella’s symposium include (l-r) Justin Toro, outreach coordinator, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program; Renee Reopell, LMSW, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program; Linda Wesp, NP, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program; Caitlin Ryan, PhD, director, Family Acceptance Project; Stephen Stafford, director of communications & special projects, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program; Jesse Milan, JD, fellow, Altarum Institute; Donna Futterman, MD, director, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program. (Photo courtesy Montefiore Medical Center via Norwood News)

Presenters at Umbrella’s symposium include (l-r) Justin Toro, outreach coordinator, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program; Renee Reopell, LMSW, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program; Linda Wesp, NP, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program; Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., director, Family Acceptance Project; Stephen Stafford, director of communications & special projects, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program; Jesse Milan, JD, fellow, Altarum Institute; Donna Futterman, MD, director, Montefiore Adolescent AIDS Program. (Photo courtesy of Montefiore Medical Center via Norwood News)

The Umbrella Program, a new program to offer comprehensive medical care and support for LGBTQ youth in the Bronx, was unveiled recently at Montefiore Medical Center, Richard Bucey reports in Norwood News. The program serves what medical experts believe to be a pressing need among adolescents in the borough.

Dr. Donna Futterman, who works with Montefiore’s Adolescent AIDS Program, detailed some of the challenges and needs of the community.

“Sadly, these young people don’t have the terrifying image of the epidemic in the 1980s. So some people are not afraid of the virus,” said Futterman. “On the flip side, others are so daunted by the stress of trying to remain negative that they give up and just assume that they will one day contract the virus. We simply need to ramp up our prevention efforts every five years for each new generation.”

These prevention efforts are especially important in the Bronx which has a troubled history with HIV, coupled with the highest infection rates in all five boroughs, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“HIV has always been prevalent in the Bronx as it is where the epidemic was first identified, and is an intersection of poverty and racial tension. This is combined with the lack of space for LGBTQ youth to socialize,” explained Futterman.

At a symposium held June 5 in connection with the launch of the Umbrella Program, a number of experts described how LGBTQ may have special or particular needs around issues of identity, safe sex and mental and social well-being.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Director of the Family Acceptance Project, spoke of the importance of familial acceptance for LGBTQ youth. Ryan outlined techniques for helping teens assist their families to accept their sexual identity, emphasizing the importance of family and retaining cultural identity. “…[W]e (social workers) know that taking adolescents away from their families is not the solution,” said Ryan. She added that it is important to work in conjunction with cultural institutions such as churches rather than fight them.

The presentation also noted that social workers and doctors should never make assumptions about a person’s sexual identity. “A young lesbian might have a hard time articulating to her gynecologist why she isn’t taking birth control. It is on healthcare professionals to ask the right questions,” said Ryan.

For more views from the symposium, read the article in the Norwood News.

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