Beginning in the late 1980's, an increased number of adolescents and young adults were testing HIV antibody positive, and the need for HIV specific adolescent health providers and clinics became evident, especially in high HIV prevalence areas like New York City. The needs of adolescents infected with or affected by HIV are intertwined with the many other issues of adolescence, and developmental concerns were of paramount importance in creating adolescent-friendly clinics.
The Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine defines adolescents as individuals 10 to 24 years old, and the New York State Department of Health's AIDS Institute defines adolescents as 13 to 24 years. Developmentally, adolescents need a safe, confidential health care setting that respects their diversities and individualities without "labeling" or identifying them as diseased, disabled or "different" from other adolescents and young adults. As a result, clinical programs have been developed that provide primary health care services to HIV-positive and HIV at-risk 13 to 24 year olds that are distinctly different from more traditional pediatric and adult clinics. Project STAY is one such program.
Since 1991, Project STAY has provided comprehensive, primary medical and mental health care to both HIV-positive and HIV at-risk 13 to 24 year olds. Overall adolescent health is our primary focus, and we strive to reduce the risks of morbidities and mortalities prevalent among adolescents in the United States. A multidisciplinary team of providers, including pediatric/adolescent medicine specialists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, and health educators, provide care to an increasing population of HIV-positive and at-risk youth at Columbia University's New York-Presbyterian Hospital campus.
The health care system can be challenging to navigate under any circumstance. But for disenfranchised youth, those with limited education or cognitive abilities, and those with a chronic illness, the barriers to health promotion can be overwhelming. Therefore, Project STAY staff work with clients to help them understand, manage, and advocate for their own health care needs. Because we also provide care to any many adolescents who are not HIV-positive, no individual is identified as being HIV-positive by coming to our clinics for services.