A member of the Youth on Fire group cleans up around Harvard Square on June 14. Similar cleanups are planned monthly through October. (Photo: Youth on Fire)

Members and staff of Youth on Fire, a program of the AIDS Action Committee that provides services for street-involved youth, plan to do Community Clean-Ups at least once per month through October in an effort to make a difference in Harvard Square, said Ayala Livy, the group’s program manager.

“The Cambridge community is so generous to our members, and we want to be good neighbors in return,” Livy said. “This is an easy way for us to be out in the community making a positive difference.”

The work has started, with 20 members and six staffers collecting 25 bags of trash around Harvard Square during a two-hour Community Clean-Up on June 14.

They began at Harvard Epworth Methodist Church and walked down to the Charles River, paying special attention to the Cambridge Commons, Dawes Island, the Graveyard, the Pit, JFK Park and the riverfront, Livy said. After collecting the trash, the group ended the afternoon with pizza donated by Bertucci’s.

Youth on Fire is a drop-in center for street-involved and homeless people between 14 and 24, inspired by the fact that about one-third of all new HIV infections in the U.S. occur in people under 29. Of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts at the end of 2009, 10 percent (1,742) were diagnosed between ages 13 and 24 years, group officials said.

Homelessness, drug use, and abuse are strongly tied to HIV risk among youth; Youth on Fire members have access to services that include daily meals, showers, laundry, clothing, safer sex supplies and access to computers and phones. In addition, basic health screening services and mental health services are provided on-site by the Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center. Case management services are provided for those members who wish to address long-term goals. According to the committee, in the past year 856 homeless youth visited Youth on Fire, which served 4,680 meals, conducted 366 follow up risk-reduction visits and provided medical care to 177 members.

This post was written from a press release.