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Local and Community News
Florida: Learning AIDS

March 18, 2003

In what seems like an uphill battle, some Pasco County, Fla., schools are stepping up efforts to discourage a new generation from casual sex. School nurses throughout Pasco County are doing their part to debunk the younger generation's often cavalier attitude toward sex and all that comes with it. "Kids at this age think they're invincible. So we try to approach them in different ways," said Barbara Toth, school nurse at Ridgewood High School.

Some county schools begin by teaching life management classes during the freshman year, in which discussions focus on abstinence and how to prevent STDs. Sophomores have classroom visits from people with AIDS who speak about the disease and how it has affected their quality of life. Juniors tour Hernando/Pasco Hospice's "The Face of AIDS," a multimedia exhibit by local artist Maureen Kennedy that features masks of those infected with AIDS. High school seniors attend a student production of "The Inner Circle," in which a teen dies of AIDS.

"[HIV/AIDS is] not something you see in the news so much any more," said Toth. "I tell the kids, "You haven't heard about it, you haven't read about it, but it's still out there." Toth notes that she is heartened by students who visit her office or express how they have been touched by listening to the recordings of those with AIDS while walking through the "Face of AIDS" exhibit.

Toth believes in the value of programs like that of Pasco County. "Many times I hear kids saying, 'This made it real for me' or "I'm going to get tested' or "I'm going to remain a virgin,'" said Toth. "It helps to know for that period of time, at least, some of them were listening."

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Excerpted from:
St. Petersburg Times
03.12.03; Michele Miller




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