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Northwestern launches HIV prevention youth awareness campaign

PrEP4Teens sexual health initiative will bring artwork to public spaces across Chicago

A new social awareness and community mobilization campaign called “PrEP4Teens,” a collaboration led by scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and community leaders in sexual health and youth engagement, will launch on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at TaskForce Prevention and Community Services in Austin.

PrEP4Teens stems from research that identified lack of understanding and awareness as the main barriers for teenagers and young sexual and gender minorities to start taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP are FDA-approved medications that reduce an individual’s chance of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use by as much as 99%. PrEP is approved for adolescent use.

In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation that health care providers discuss PrEP with all sexually active people without HIV in hopes that doing so would reduce stigma associated with talking about HIV transmission risk factors. But young adults and adolescents only make up 11% of those who are prescribed PrEP.

To stem HIV spread at its source, medical communities must grapple with how to dispense information about and increase access to PrEP, particularly among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and gender minorities, who are especially vulnerable to HIV transmission.

Now, to combat misinformation and grow common understanding of the medication, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Institute of Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH), in partnership with TaskForce Prevention and Community Services, Jim Pickett Consulting, AIDS Foundation Chicago, University of Chicago, Lurie Children’s Hospital, and other local organizations, will launch an innovative social awareness campaign created with and for adolescents.

“I’ve heard from thousands of teenagers who want but aren’t getting the education they need to make empowered, informed decisions about their health and their bodies. And sexual health information isn’t always developed with teens’ needs in mind. We need to change this now, and in a big way, and the PrEP4Teens campaign aims to be part of that,” said Kathryn Macapagal, a chief investigator at ISGMH and PrEP4Teens representative. “It’s been an honor to work with incredible community partners, youth, and artists who share the same vision, and we hope this is just the start.”

Emphasizing community engaged and designed art, the PrEP4Teens campaign will feature murals and other types of public art created collaboratively by muralists and Chicago youth. The first mural, which will be featured in TaskForce’s windows, is designed by local artist and LGBTQ+ community advocate David Gauna, who conducted a workshop at TaskForce with a dozen youth to inform the mural’s look and messaging. Another key component of the campaign is a teen-friendly informational website, in English and Spanish, that explains PrEP and points to culturally competent PrEP providers in the Chicago area who serve youth. The website will be live on November 15 at

To celebrate the launch of a years-long initiative, PrEP4Teens will host an opening event with a pre-Thanksgiving buffet, a photo booth, and a youth “mini-ball” featuring a vogue competition with PrEP-inspired categories. Doors open at 5 p.m., Wednesday,  Nov. 15 at TaskForce Prevention and Community Services. A short program will take place at 6 p.m. followed by the mini-ball.

The event is open to the media. Registration is required to attend.

Media should contact Win Reynolds to rsvp for the event.

WHO: Remarks from muralist and representatives from PrEP4Teens and TaskForce, including:

  • David Gauna, muralist
  • Kathryn Macapagal, representative, PrEP4Teens
  • Chris Balthazar, executive director, TaskForce Prevention and Community Services

WHAT:  PrEP4Teens campaign launch event

WHEN: Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5 to 9 p.m. (CT)

WHERE: TaskForce Prevention and Community Services

     9 North Cicero Ave., Chicago