Several weeks after the Virginia Beach, Va., mayor commended Teen AIDS Peer Corps in a Youth AIDS Prevention Day proclamation as a leader in promoting testing and educating Hampton Roads teens, city officials now are concerned about the local nonprofit's testing methods and are reconsidering their decision to use this group.
An April Mount Trashmore fundraiser, which attracted 1,000 people, included an HIV testing event hosted by Teen AIDS Peer Corps. Virginia Beach supported the event but questioned the group's decision to read out test results publicly. Dr. John Chittick, the group's founder, explained that his group was attempting to end the stigma and shame that surround AIDS and testing. He told the gathering that his group would return in May to provide more testing. At the next testing session, park security staff was also present. Chittick revealed to WAVY.com that Teen AIDS Peer Corps was informed that they could not film or publicly test youth. A city attorney declined to speak with WAVY.com until after they met with Chittick on June 5.View Full Article
Comment by: Dr. John Chittick
(Norfolk, VA )
Thu., Jul. 11, 2013 at 2:35 am EDT
This article while informative is misleading in a few ways. First, no "children" were invited to be tested. The term "children" was used pejoratively by Virginia Beach's City Attorney's office even though they knew we had tested only 18 year-olds in the city park.
Second, the article says that city officials "are reconsidering their decision to use this group." What a ridiculous statement. TeenAIDS operates independently of the city and we are not looking for their patronage or permission. We wanted to inform them of future testing out of professional courtesy. We are still conducting tests in Virginia Beach parks but now are not informing city officials beforehand.
On the two occasions that police have shown up, they say we are not breaking any laws and leave. We are exercising free speech rights to inform vulnerable youth about a potentially deadly threat. One pundit has suggested that the city's primary interest is not for the public health of their sexually active teens but of protecting their reputation as a prime beach resort for tourists. Yet the Hampton Roads area of Virginia has the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the state and some of the highest STI rates in the nation.
The public schools do very little except preach the mandated "abstinence-only-before-marriage" education that teens overwhelmingly reject as out of touch with their lives. We invite the press to witness our public testing for transparency and to provide better information for the public. It seems Virginia Beach officials prefer censorship.
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