District of Columbia: Teaching Youth to Prevent HIV and AIDS
September 19, 2007
It can be hard to make HIV/AIDS relevant to teens in the District of Columbia, says Adam Tenner, executive director of Metro TeenAIDS, a D.C.-based organization dedicated to preventing HIV among local youths. In the District, an estimated one in 50 residents has AIDS, and up to one in 20 has HIV.
However, high rates of gun violence in many D.C. neighborhoods makes simply day-to-day survival foremost in some kids' minds, said Tenner. "Where that kind of low expectation exists, it's hard to really worry about a virus that may kill you 10 years from now."
The group's program director, Anne Wiseman, helped organize a basketball tournament to attract youths to the National HIV Testing Day event. Metro TeenAIDS provides reproductive health education year-round in District schools and community organizations. In the after-school program "Freestyle," the group tries to create a safe space where kids can discuss how to negotiate with their partner not to have sex and fight peer pressure, and what to do if they have had risky sex.
With the group's peer outreach program, "It's not some adult coming to them, and saying, 'Hey, you should do this, or you should do that.' And it's incredibly effective," said Tenner. At age 15, Desha Smith may look too small and shy to go up to her peers on the street, provide condoms, and talk about HIV/AIDS. But she does, and she loves the job.
"It helps me out because it helps me learn about AIDS and HIV," said Smith, "and it helps me protect my friends." Many of her peers are already having sex, she said, and she wants them to know about HIV/AIDS so it can be stopped.
Voice of America News
9.11.2007; Véronica LaCapra
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.