CANFAR addresses youth HIV stigma with new youth-driven, sexual health and wellness resource, Sexfluent
Sexfluent is an online resource that provides youth with an inclusive space to explore topics on mental health, sexual health, gender identity and sexuality, and harm reduction.
Toronto, ON – Inspired by findings collected from their 2019 National Youth Survey, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) saw the need to improve and modernize youth sexual health education in Canada to address gaps in mental health and harm reduction. They’ve created Sexfluent, a national, first-of-its-kind, youth-driven resource that integrates topics on mental health and harm reduction with sexual health, and openly addresses stigmatized topics, such as HIV, STIs, testing, sexual pleasure, gender identity and sexuality, and substance use. Initially soft-launched in the summer of 2021, Sexfluent is continually evolving with new content focused on youth mental health education, unveiled today, thanks to the generous support of The P. Austin Family Foundation.
“We are so pleased to support this CANFAR initiative that will help achieve our collective goal of ending the HIV epidemic in Canada. We have been supporters of CANFAR for over 30 years and this program will reach youth and those in marginalized populations with important and relevant information delivered in a manner that will engage, inform and educate,” said Paul Austin of The P. Austin Family Foundation.
“Sexfluent provides an inclusive, affirming and sex-positive space for youth,” commented CANFAR CEO, Alex Filiatrault. “It was created to foster a community of young people to explore their bodies and sexualities to become more confident and empowered to make healthier and safer decisions. Of course, HIV education and prevention remains at the heart of the campaign, but we can positively impact youth’s lives by addressing key topics related to sex, pleasure, relationships, and harm reduction. Through the support of The P. Austin Family Foundation, we have developed critical resources dedicated to mental health.”
The creation of Sexfluent was directed by youth voices, both through CANFAR’s National Youth Advisory Committee, and through the findings in the CANFAR-led National Youth Survey. The survey highlighted the need to move away from more traditional, medical, and technical approaches to sexual health and address the diverse issues that are relevant to the everyday experiences of young people today. In the survey, healthy relationships (42%), mental health (40%), safer sex practices (36%), HIV and other STIs (29%), and safer substance use (28%) were among the most selected sexual health topics youth wanted to learn more about.
Traditionally, sexual health information is disseminated in schools, but when asked their preferred method of accessing sexual health information, only 3% of youth chose “teachers”, which was the least selected option, while almost half (42%) of youth indicated they favour “online/internet” as the source of accessing sexual health information. This finding showcases why CANFAR decided to create Sexfluent as primarily an online resource and community.
Sexfluent has a robust, bilingual website, Sexfluent.ca, and has garnered a strong presence on Instagram at @sexfluent.ca. The campaign focuses on educational content that provides youth with the power of choice, using a peer-driven approach that has a sense of encouragement and cheekiness. The content is amplified and developed in collaboration with the Sexfluent Squad, a diverse group of young Canadian activists and influencers who share their own experiences on TikTok and Instagram through video, reels and static posts. They come from across the country and vary in both their background and experiences, and touch upon Indigenous-, 2SLGBTQIA+, and HIV-related advocacy and health information
The current Sexfluent Squad members include:
- Chelazon Leroux: TikTok @chelazonleroux, Instagram @chelazonleroux (Saskatoon, SK)
- Jordy & Lamymy: TikTok @lamymyetjordy, Instagram @jordyyy.x & @lamymyyy (Montréal, QC)
- Kairyn Potts: TikTok @ohkairyn, Instagram @ohkairyn (Edmonton, AB)
- Myles Sexton: TikTok @mylessexton, Instagram @mylessexton (Toronto, ON)
- Tyra Blizzard: TikTok @tblizzy, Instagram @tyrablizz (Ottawa, ON)
And recently welcomed to the Squad are:
- Brogan Marshall: Instagram @brogan (Saskatoon, SK)
- Hayley Robinson: TikTok @og.robinson, Instagram: @og.robinson10 (Calgary, AB)
- Omar Ahmed: Instagram @omarahmed.co
- Tini Gashi: TikTok @tinigashi, Instagram @_tinigashi_ (Toronto, ON)
With CANFAR’s central work around HIV, it was startling to see that two-thirds of respondents from CANFAR’s National Youth Survey would not date, kiss or make out, or share utensils with someone living with HIV. As well, when asked if people living with HIV can have sex and not pass on the virus, 62% strongly disagreed or disagreed with this statement. This shows that there is still a strong stigma and culture of misinformation that exists around HIV with youth. Sexfluent’s work is focused on educating youth around HIV and improving the well-being of people living with HIV, as well as removing the barriers to allow them to be open with their status.
CANFAR’s National Youth Awareness Program is made possible through the generous support of CANFAR’s Program Sponsors, including the Slaight Family Foundation, The P. Austin Family Foundation, Canada Life, and MAC AIDS Fund.
To learn more about the survey findings, you can check out the full report here. To see what the #SexfluentSquad is up to, check out @sexfluent.ca on Instagram and visit Sexfluent.ca for additional information. Interviews are available with Squad members and the CANFAR team.
The Brand Is Female
CANFAR’s mission is to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Canada by funding innovative research, and awareness programs focused on increasing prevention, increasing testing, improving treatment and care, and ending HIV/AIDS stigma. Over its 35-year history, CANFAR has invested more than $24 million and awarded more than 500 grants across Canada in research addressing all aspects of HIV/AIDS.