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Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation opens center for LGBTQ youth

#GiveLocalTucson
Posted at 5:11 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-22 19:29:53-05

Every month, Give Local Tucson spotlights an organization that makes our hometown a better place.

The organization featured for February is the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF)

The exposure in the form of features, television, and radio adds up to more than $1,500,000 through the year.

Last month SAAF opened a center for LGBTQ youth on Fourth Avenue. It's called the Thornhill Lopez Center on 4th. Adam Ragan is the associate director of LGBTQ initiatives for the foundation and spoke to KGUN9 about the community response so far.

"I hear from folks, 'I wish I had this when I was a youth, to I can't wait to come hang out there, to I'm texting my friend right now to let them know we have a place to come to.'" Ragan said. "So you get this whole gamut of the different generations, but all of them come back to 'I'm so glad that we have this space in Tucson.'" 

The center has board games, computers for the youth to do homework and work on resumes, and a wall of art created by the teens.

The goal, Ragan said, is to make youth feel like they can hang out and be themselves. Once they are relaxed, Ragan says they can ask staff questions and build up a rapport, so they trust them if they need information. 

SAAF raised nearly $2 million through a two-year capital campaign to renovate and buy the building. It is located at 526 N. 4th Avenue. It is open to youth ages 13 to 24 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday through Friday and the third Saturday of the month.

SAAF offers a wide array of services including housing and case management, youth programming and HIV testing. 

"While HIV has become a chronic health care issue, there still is every need to prevent new HIV infections and help those that have HIV have a healthy, full life," Ragan said. 

Ragan says there is also a need to help youth find their voices, learn about their risk factors and reduce those risks.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE about the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.

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