April 4, 2012
Local youths seeking to warn other teens about AIDS recently starred in the fifth public service announcement (PSA) shot by the Norfolk-based nonprofit TeenAIDS-PeerCorps.
The 30-second PSA, titled "Prom Party," was shot on location outside an actual ROTC military ball at the Cavalier Hotel in March. It ends with this phrase: "Teens must tell their friends about AIDS before it is too late."
Participant Grace Byrd, 15, is hopeful the video will speak effectively to her peers. "Kids pay more attention to the television than their teachers or parents," she said.
TeenAIDS-PeerCorps was founded in 1997 by Director John Chittick, a former Harvard lecturer on HIV prevention. The volunteer organization has chapters in 110 countries. Its teen AIDS PSAs are aired nationally on cable TV and YouTube.
"Teenagers are having sex," said Chittick. "We can tell them not to, and that if you abstain you won't get an STD, but that isn't the only message to tell."
"Teens feel invincible. Like It's not going to happen to me,'" Chittick continued. CDC statistics for 2010, however, rank Hampton Roads near the top for STDs among US metropolitan areas.
"It's a topic no one wants to talk about, but it's just as deadly as any other disease," said Alyssa Gizinski, a 16-year-old high school sophomore. Gizinski added that a friend who has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS was angry that no one had warned her she was at risk. "I don't think teens realize how important or how serious it is," said Gizinski. "But they could be part of the statistic."