Power of the Arts: CANFAR partners with “SExT: Sex Education by Theatre” to educate Canadian youth about HIV prevention
TORONTO – The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) is proud to announce its largest community partnership with arts-based youth performance group, SExT: Sex Education by Theatre, to reach youth in some of the most remote communities in the country that are most affected by the HIV epidemic.
Thanks to CANFAR’s Program Sponsors, including the Slaight Family Foundation and Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life, CANFAR is partnering with SExT: Sex Education by Theatre, a sexual health education performance group led by students for students to go on a national high school tour this spring.
SExT was created by Shira Taylor, an Ottawa-born, Toronto-based actor and health and social justice advocate, as part of her PhD dissertation at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. SExT was born out of Toronto’s Thorncliffe/Flemingdon Park, a community where sexuality is a cultural taboo and sexual health education, a contentious issue.
“Over the past four years, SExT’s culturally and gender diverse group of peer educators have inspired youth to celebrate their unique identities and to make healthy decisions. Partnering with CANFAR to expand our national reach will create exciting opportunities for cultural exchange and demonstrate the power of theatre to activate diverse communities and tackle public health concerns,” says Taylor.
SExT is grounded in a culturally inclusive, youth-led and arts-based approach, which uses theatre to empower young people to examine, challenge and communicate topics that youth have identified as relevant to their lives. SExT provides a safe space for youth to develop as artists and advocates in their own communities, speaking on issues ranging from consent, racism, homophobia, HIV, STIs, pregnancy, cyberbullying, domestic violence, and mental health through a compilation of sketches, songs, poems, raps, and dances.
This partnership between CANFAR and SExT will be the first of its kind and will directly reach youth in the most relevant communities that are disproportionately affected by HIV. The majority of new HIV infections in Canada occur within Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan, where the rates of HIV prevalence are twice the national average.
Starting on May 7th, the group will perform in three high schools in Kapuskasing, Ontario, reaching over 230 youth, followed by a 12-day tour in northern Saskatchewan on May 21st, where they will perform in 12 communities, reaching over 30 schools/reserves and over 2,500 youth. “CANFAR is directly going into communities where it has never gone before. Our partnership with SExT will ensure educational opportunities for those young Canadians who urgently need this type of education,” says CANFAR President and Chief Operating Officer, Kyle Winters.
Dr. Daniel Grace from the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and member of CANFAR’s Scientific Advisory Committee adds, “Preventing, treating, and destigmatizing HIV among youth in Canada requires innovative strategies. SExT offers an engaging and creative initiative to further sex education among diverse young people in Canada, using a community-based approach that centres the voices of youth.”
With this partnership, CANFAR strives to empower Canadian youth to recognize and avoid unhealthy situations, to explore their identity on their own terms, and to be able to confidently set boundaries. CANFAR envisions that this partnership with SExT will eventually expand into other provinces and communities, increasing young people’s knowledge around sexual health and decision making, and ultimately, reducing the rate of new HIV infections.
Interview opportunities are available upon request.
About the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR)
Over its 30-year history, CANFAR has invested more than $21 million and awarded more than 400 grants to HIV and AIDS research projects across Canada. Over a quarter of new HIV infections in Canada occur in youth between ages 15 and 29. CANFAR is committed to reaching the most at-risk Canadian youth through its National Awareness Programs, which focus on educating young people across the country about HIV prevention, testing and treatment.