Editor's note: The Vail Daily is running a series of articles on nonprofits that are participating in Colorado Gives Day on Dec. 4.
Red Ribbon Project of Eagle County fills a niche in the rural resort community that would otherwise be overlooked. The nonprofit strives to empower the community to reduce teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Over the years, it has built meaningful relationships with the school district, health agencies and youth-serving organizations allowing it to maximize its comprehensive programming with youth and those who put themselves at risk for HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. The organization is a dedicated, creative and passionate team of community members. When they utilize all of this motivation and passion, they are, as one board member says, "a small nonprofit that does big things."
At Red Ribbon Projects inception in 1996, it was decided to begin by offering HIV 101 to youth in middle and high schools. This has evolved into a comprehensive life skills curriculum (called the Youth Skills Building program) that encourages youth to make informed and positive decisions. One of the key components of the program is to provide culturally and age-appropriate HIV/AIDS awareness education to sixth- through 12th-grade students. The health educators bring personal knowledge as well as a deep commitment and skill in connecting with youth around sensitive topics. The Youth Skills Building program currently consists of 14 classes that Eagle County middle and high schools can choose from, depending on the needs of their student population.
In addition, the Red Ribbon Project has implemented a teen pregnancy prevention program, called Cuidate! The word "cuidate" means "take care of yourself," which is the theme of this culturally-based program designed to reduce HIV sexual risks among Latino youth. Today, all teens, including Latinos, face many health risks related to sexual behavior, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The program emphasizes risk reduction strategies through activities that allow youth to acquire correct and reliable information about risk and disease and develop attitudes that support safe decision making. This program will be able to help teens develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills to act in ways that will support good health and protect them from serious risks related to sexual behavior.
The Red Ribbon Project also offers barrier-free HIV testing (at no cost) in Eagle County. Red Ribbon Project is the only agency providing rapid HIV testing in Eagle County. Providing barrier-free HIV testing allows clients in the community to take charge of their sexual health. Eagle County is a rural community with an economy that relies on tourism and recreation. Therefore, the community sees many transient Latinos and young adults. In Eagle County, the Red Ribbon Project's testing program specifically serves this Latino transient population, the transient population that comes with living in a resort community and our high school youth.
Nearly three in 10 girls in the U.S. get pregnant at least once before the age of 20. On average, 17 babies were born to teens in Colorado every day - or about one baby born every 84 minutes. Even more startling, 18 percent of Americans with HIV do not know they are infected. That's more than 200,000 people.
These statistics are a clear indication of the need to provide education about reproductive health in order to promote good decision making, according to the Red Ribbon Project. The group aims to continue to educate and inform youth about the consequences of sex, providing them with comprehensive education that includes both information about safe sex and abstinence.