February 19, 2013
Two University of South Carolina (USC) School of Library and Information Science researchers have helped incarcerated teenaged students write a 30-page graphic novel titled "AIDS in the End Zone." The 15- to 19-year-old incarcerated students are from the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. The students created the fictional story of a high school football player who will do anything to recoup his starting quarterback position, including attempting to get his rival infected with HIV. USC Assistant Professor Karen Gavigan, Associate Professor Kendra Albright, and illustrator Sarah Petrulis all worked with the students to write the novel. "We wanted the book to be written by the target audience ... [and] in the local vernacular," declared Albright. The book is written by and for South Carolina teenagers to educate other teens about HIV/AIDS and to prevent the spread of the disease.
Gavigan and Albright worked with the teenagers to build the story line, create the characters, and fine-tune the dialogue. The book includes facts about HIV/AIDS intertwined into a graphic novel format. The researchers hope it will help improve understanding and stop the spread of HIV among South Carolina's youth population. South Carolina ranks eighth in the United States for new HIV cases, while Columbia, S.C., ranks sixth nationally among metropolitan areas. Young black males make up the highest at-risk group in South Carolina.
The researchers will expand the project to young adults at public libraries through an Association for Library and Information Science Education grant. Their next step will be to work with the Richland County Public Library System to determine the books' success in increasing teens' understanding of HIV/AIDS. "AIDS in the End Zone" contains HIV prevention, testing, and treatment information. Gavigan and Albright plan to survey teens before and after reading the book to see if the teens' knowledge and understanding of the disease changes. The two eventually want to test the book on students in at-risk schools, with the ultimate goal being to bring the book to a national and international audience, with each book written in the culture and language of its audience.