National HIV Legal Organization Releases First Set of Standards for the Sexual Health Care of Youth in Detention and Foster Care Centers

Published: January 26, 2012

New York, January 26, 2012 – The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP), a national HIV legal resource and support center, released the first set of standards created to ensure that sexual health care is included in basic medical services for young people in detention and other types of state custody, and that it meets minimum requirements for competent care. 

The guidelines, Model Sexual Health Care Standards for Youth in State Custody; Model Sexual Health Education Standards for Youth in State Custody; and Model Staff Training Standards: Focusing on the needs of LGBTQ Youth, address a gap in the services and related guidance that facility directors and medical staff need to ensure that sexual health care and education is routinely available to youth in state facilities, said staff at CHLP. 

“We are thrilled to release these Standards. They are an essential resource for facilities that have yet to implement policies that get young people the medical services that help them to prevent and deal with HIV, STIs, unwanted pregnancies, and sexual abuse,” said Seth M. Marnin, Deputy Director of Policy and Development at CHLP. “The Standards also make it clear that to be effective, sexual health care must recognize the diversity and needs of every young person regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and be provided by trained, respectful staff.”

A number of agencies serving children around the country contributed to and endorsed the new standards. “These standards fall in line with ACS’s values, principles, and policies regarding sexual and reproductive health care. Both the Teen SENSE standards and the ACS requirements emphasize the fact that all youth in foster care have concrete rights to sexual and reproductive health care,” says Beatrice Aladin, Director of Health Policy & Planning for New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services.

“Young people in these facilities are totally dependent on their custodians for all aspects of their care.  Yet they typically lack access to appropriate and effective HIV prevention, sexual health education, and sexual and reproductive health care,” said Terrance Moore, Director of Policy and Health Equity for the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). “This is hugely unfortunate, and a missed public health opportunity, since youth in these facilities overwhelmingly are at increased risk for HIV and STIs as well as sexual abuse.”

Dr. Jeffrey M. Birnbaum, the Program Director of the Health and Education Alternatives for Teens (HEAT) Program and the Family, Adolescent and Children’s Experience Network at SUNY (FACES) helped to draft the Model Sexual Health Care Standards for Youth in State Custody. Dr. Birnbaum stated, “Standards that mandate key sexual health services for residents of youth facilities are sorely needed and long overdue. This population is at much higher risk for disease and unwanted pregnancies. Without written requirements, these young people will never consistently receive the basic medical care that they are entitled to.”

The standards were developed as part of CHLP’s Teen SENSE initiative, a project that partners with health care professionals, sexual health educations, government agencies, advocates and young people. Teen SENSE advocates for concrete policies and standards that make sure that LGBT-inclusive sexual health care and related health education and staff training are in place and available to all young people in state custody.

Marnin added, “The Teen SENSE initiative operates under the principle that providing adolescents in state facilities sexual health care is good public policy as well as a legal and ethical imperative. The health and safety of these youth are too often overlooked. We hope that these Standards will help to focus needed attention on a very serious issue.”

The Teen SENSE Sexual Health Care Standards have been endorsed by the following organizations and can be accessed and downloaded at
Administration for Children’s Services, New York City
African American Office of Gay Concerns
AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families
BreakOUT!, New Orleans, LA
HiTOPS, New Jersey
Hetrick-Martin Institute
Hyacinth AIDS Foundation
Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)
National Organization of Women, New Jersey
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey
SUNY Downstate Medical Center: HEAT Program, Brooklyn, NY
SUNY Downstate Medical Center: FACES Network, Brooklyn, NY
True Colors, Inc. Sexual Minority Youth Services of CT
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey: Paulette Stanford, MD,
Division of Adolescent and Youth Adult Medicine
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey: JumP
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