More than 100 community and medical providers are registered to attend what is believed to be the state’s first-ever youth, sexual health and social media conference.
The event, developed by a number of organizations, takes place Thursday, June 21 from 9 am to 4 pm at the Roger Williams University Baypoint Residence and Conference Center, 144 Anthony Road, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
The conference is entitled: “Got UR Game On? Meeting the Sexual Health Needs of Rhode Island’s Youth.”
“We are very excited to see the high level of interest in this conference,” said Thomas Bertrand, executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island, one of the sponsors. “It’s important because in recent years Rhode Island has seen an increase in unprotected sex and some sexually transmitted diseases among high-school students. In terms of HIV, we are seeing a rise among young gay/bisexual males in their 20s. Healthy behaviors to prevent HIV and STDs start in teenage years, and we want to see all our young people grow up healthy.”
The conference is intended for health care providers, educators, and other community leaders in Rhode Island to help them gain insights and improve their skills related to interacting with Rhode Island’s youth about sexual health issues. “Attendance has maxed out,” said Bertrand.
Shannon Spurlock, of JSI Research and Training, Inc, which helped organize the conference, said “Young people deserve the whole truth about sexual health. Adults today need to be sources of reliable and relatable information, not just messages on pregnancy and disease prevention. We need to use a holistic approach to sexual wellness, instead of depending on scare tactics to keep young people safe and healthy.”
The featured keynote speaker is Tiffani Kisler, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island, who will be speaking about her research on the use of technology (i.e. sexting, texting, Facebook, Twitter) and its effects on psychological, sexual, and relational health.
The morning sessions will include a mix of presentations from local experts, as well as a special session where young people from Youth Pride, Inc., will share their thoughts and ideas about sexual health. The afternoon break-out sessions include hands-on training and skills building. Conference speakers include Dr. Michele Forcier, Toby Simon, Dr. Laura Whitely, Annie Silvia, Megan Andelloux, Lisa Hoopis, and Aida Manduley.
A special emphasis of the conference is current and emerging issues in sexual health, as well as the role of technology and social media in young people’s lives.
Aida Manduly from Sojourner House, an event organizer, notes, “If we want to foster a sexually healthy and intelligent nation, state and community, we must take care to educate our youth in ways that are honest and relevant, not just factual. To this end, it’s critical that we also train providers on the best ways to deliver that information and promote healthier dialogues around sexual health.”
Conference sponsors include: AIDS Project RI, AIDS Care Ocean State, Bradley/Hasbro Children’s Research Center, Alpert Medical School at Brown University, JSI Research and Training, Inc., Lifespan/Brown/Tufts Center for AIDS Research, Pawtucket Prevention Coalition, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Rhode Island Department of Health, RI Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, Sojourner House, United Healthcare, Youth Pride RI and the YWCA of Rhode Island.