Candy Shop is an innovative community and peer-led onsite and mobile HIV counseling, testing and referral (CTR) project targeting gender-variant youth, primarily trans and gender non-conforming youth of color between 14 and 24 years of age.

Trans and gender non-conforming youth experience high levels of stigma and discrimination and often lack the social support necessary to decrease their HIV risk. Despite the high rate of HIV infection among trans and gender non-conforming youth, their needs are often overlooked in HIV prevention interventions, including testing, counseling and referral into clinical care. To be successful, CTR programs must realistically address the risk factors that make trans and gender non-conforming youth so vulnerable to HIV: economic hardship, homelessness, unequal sexual power dynamics, survival sex, substance abuse, hormone injections, and marginalization.

Candy Shop seeks to address these issues and increase access to medical care by meeting trans and gender non-conforming youth where they are—geographically and psychologically—with a strong network of alternative testing sites mobile testing services and an integrated platform of social networking, print and web-based marketing. We rely on strong relationships with partner organizations to promote and expand referrals from the target community.

Candy Shop program strategies include:

  1. Peer-Led Counseling: Onsite and mobile HIV test counselors are staffed by trans women of color with an emphasis on recruiting trans youth.
  2. Onsite Testing: HIV counseling and testing are offered at Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center’s HIV Testing Clinic on 730 Polk Street and at the TRANS:THRIVE drop-in center at 815 Hyde Street.
  3. Offsite Testing: We collaborate with our community partners to maximize our visibility in the trans youth community. In addition to special events and venues where trans youth of color frequent, off-site testing services will be provided at Larkin Street Youth Services, EL/LA and Ark of Refuge.
  4. Outreach Activities: We provide information and promotional materials in strategic locations, both online and in print at our community partners’ offices.

This exciting program is led by Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center in collaboration with our community partners: the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Ark of Refuge, EL/LA and Larkin Street Youth Services.