September 8, 2006
Emily Cordeaux, a 17-year-old Toronto resident, said some teens still thinks HIV/AIDS is an issue only for gay men, and that others are lulled into a false sense of security by thinking there will be a cure within their lifetime. She said schools offer the basics about HIV/AIDS in grade nine, but teens learn much more by talking among themselves. When schools organize group discussions, many misconceptions are cleared up, Cordeaux said.
Cordeaux belongs to a Foster Parents Plan youth advisory council, and was one of 1,000 youth delegates to last month's 16th International AIDS Conference. She has traveled to schools giving talks and moderating discussions. "Given the opportunity, Canadian youth do care," Cordeaux said.
Experts say teens take HIV/AIDS more seriously if they have some personal connection to the disease, and if peers speak to them about it in their own language.
Jason Rochester, a.k.a. Juice, is a 23-year-old Toronto rapper who travels across Canada as part of the 411 Initiative for Change, a group that uses music and the arts to educate youth on social issues. He said teens have responded well to his presentations, asking questions about HIV/AIDS.
Juice said he is happy to use his celebrity to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, noting that the frank discussions his appearances have fostered have helped clear up misconceptions among his audience and a few of his own.
"Some of them still talk about [getting HIV/AIDS via] shaking hands and saliva," Juice said. "They still don't know about how to contract the disease. I'm learning too. We're all learning."