Virginia: Camp for Girls at Risk of HIV Aims to Boost Self-Esteem
August 17, 2011
HIV/AIDS and its disproportionate effect on the black community were in the spotlight last week at "SISTA SPEAK Empowerment Camp," a pilot HIV prevention program sponsored by Richmond's Fan Free Clinic (FFC). The campers were 21 young females, ages 13 to 21, recommended by social workers who considered them at risk of unhealthy relationships. A $10,000 grant from a local high school funded the outreach.
Speakers cited CDC statistics showing that African Americans comprise just 14 percent of the population but represented 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2009, and the infection rate is 15 times higher among black women than among white women.
The event, held on a commercial strip near Richmond, combined HIV prevention messages with activities designed to boost the girls' self-esteem. Portraits of accomplished black women decorated one wall, along with sayings grouped under the banner "Wisdom of our Ancestors." "The more informed you are the less arrogant and aggressive you are," read one quote from Nelson Mandela.
"The stronger your self-identification and self-worth, the easier it is to say no and remove yourself from situations that can cause you a lifetime of pain," said Charlene Brown, FFC's case manager.
One 17-year-old camper said the program changed her attitude. "I realized sex isn't that important. I will be abstaining. And I want to always know my status."
For more information on FFC, Virginia's first free clinic, visit www.fanfreeclinic.org.
08.14.2011; Robin Farmer
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