Summary of organization/program
YouthCO is Canada’s first youth-driven organization leading the HIV and HepC movement through peer education, support, and shared leadership.
- YouthCO focuses primarily on the Lower Mainland, but works throughout British Columbia.
Featuring staff and volunteers between the ages of 15 and 29, YouthCO focuses on similar demographics. They offer peer support to all inquiring youth, but they’re support groups and one-on-one counselling is primarily for HIV and Hepatitis C positive youth. YouthCO has various programs targeted towards specific at risk categories of youth, like street-involved youth, sex workers, alternative schools and programs, treatment centres, and incarcerated youth throughout BC. Generic education programs on HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, Sexual Health and Harm Reduction are available to public school children.
- Established: 1994
- Umbrella Organization: None
- In April 1993, a meeting of over 30 BC community organizations was held to discuss issues related to youth and HIV. The need for youth-specific services was clearly identified and in February 1994, the Youth Community Outreach AIDS Society (YouthCO) was formed to provide education, support and advocacy for youth between the ages of 15 and 29 on issues associated with HIV & AIDS.YouthCO is a social profit agency run by and for youth; all of our programming involves youth providing support and prevention/education services to other youth. We also follow a philosophy of harm reduction which means confronting the realities faced by youth in a non-judgmental manner and providing the information for them to make safer choices in their lives.
Originally the agency was entirely volunteer-driven but over time, staff members were added and Board membership became more clearly defined. As time has passed, the Board’s role has varied between that of a working board and that of a policy & governance Board.
In 1998, YouthCO staff identified Hepatitis C as an area of concern for an increasing number of the youth who use our services. It was estimated that 90% of our support clients in the Downtown Eastside were co-infected, meaning they were both HIV and Hep C positive. In addition, many youth living with one virus were at risk of co-infection because of drug use and factors such as poverty, homelessness, addiction and lack of resources. In November 1999, we prepared a proposal for our first round of Hepatitis C funding and this new focus has been part of our work ever since.
Any youth between the ages of 15 and 29 can access YouthCO’s services or get involved as a volunteer.
YouthCO strives to uphold the following values at all levels of organizational decision-making and programming:
- Harm Reduction
- Sex Positivity
Dominant Media Forms
to provide education, support and advocacy for youth between the ages of 15 and 29 on issues associated with HIV & AIDS.
Statement of Principles
- Workshops within the education system
- support groups
- We offer one-to-one peer counseling, group support, information about harm-reduction and about living with HIV and Hep C. We provide referrals to community services, appointment accompaniments, hot meals and a needle exchange. All of our staff members are youth and some of us have lived experience with HIV and HepC. Harm-reduction is one of YouthCO’s core values. This means we meet people where they’re at in life to be as supportive as we can. We strive to be inclusive of all genders, orientations, backgrounds and abilities. Our members’ space is wheelchair accessible. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about our space.
- Peer Support and Education
- Harm Reduction
- Population Health
- a respect for individuals & their choices
- a promise to reponsiveness & innovation
- a dedication to meaningful community engagement
- a commitment to youth-centred consensus-based decision-making
Samples of work