Metro TeenAIDS: Teaching Youth to Prevent HIV and AIDS

A new report released this week (11/26) by the Washington, D.C., government says that about one in fifty people in the nation's capital has AIDS, and as many as one in twenty may have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The annual rate of new AIDS cases in Washington, D.C., is over ten times the national average, and probably the highest of any city in the United States. One local organization is teaching young people to fight HIV and AIDS — and empowering them to teach each other.

Adam Tenner is the Executive Director of Metro TeenAIDS, a Washington, D.C. group that works with local youth to help them better understand and confront the AIDS epidemic. Some 100,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 24 live in the nation's capital, and Tenner estimates that there is approximately one HIV-infected young person in every classroom in the District.

"We know that young people are being infected," says Tenner. "Mostly young African American women, and young, Latino and African American […] men who have sex with other men."

Even with the high infection rates, Tenner says it can be difficult to get local teenagers to take AIDS seriously. With high rates of gun violence in many neighborhoods, Tenner explains, many young people struggle just to survive day-to-day. "Where that kind of low expectation exists it's hard to really worry about a virus that may kill you ten years from now."

And the D.C. school system, Tenner adds, has not been helping, because young people get very little, if any, HIV education in the classroom.

To get HIV information to teenagers, it helps to mix in a little fun. So, to get young people to come out for National HIV Testing Day this past summer, Metro TeenAIDS organized a basketball tournament.

Along with fun informational events, Metro TeenAIDS provides young people with year-round reproductive health education in D.C. schools and through community organizations. They also provide HIV counseling and testing services.

As Metro TeenAIDS program director Anne Wiseman puts it, the group creates "a space" where young people can get answers to the questions they need, but are often afraid, to ask. "I tell young people, I kind of set the stage for them, that there's nothing they can ask me that's going to knock me off my seat, because I've heard it all!"

The questions that young people ask her range from how to negotiate with their partners about not having sex, and how to fight peer pressure, to what to do if they've had unprotected sex, and are worried about the risks.

Another way that Metro TeenAIDS creates a supportive environment for young people is through its after-school youth center, called "FreeStyle."

Dwayne Lawson-Brown, 23, has worked and volunteered for Metro TeenAIDS for the past seven years. He started an "open-mic night" at FreeStyle: an evening when young people can come to the center and sing, rap, or read poetry.

Lawson-Brown emphasizes that at FreeStyle, everyone is welcome. "Whether you're positive, you're negative, straight, gay, bi[sexual], lesbian, transgender, […] black, white, Latino, Asian, […] it doesn't matter, we're pretty accepting."

Acceptance and empowerment are at the core of Metro TeenAIDS' mission. Executive Director Adam Tenner says the group's peer outreach program plays a critical role. The group employs 15 young people, who are trained to take the message of HIV prevention out to the streets. By having young people talk to their peers, says Tenner, "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."

Desha Smith, 15, is a peer outreach educator for Metro TeenAIDS. She is small for 15, and at first she seems like she might be too shy to walk up to other teenagers on the street, hand out condoms, and talk to them about HIV.

But Desha says she loves her job. "It helps me out because it helps me learn about AIDS and HIV," she explains, "and it helps me protect my friends." She says that it is the best job that she could have, because young people her age really need to know about HIV and AIDS. According to Desha, many of her peers are already sexually active. About HIV/AIDS, Desha has this to say: "I just want to get it out there that it's bad […] and it needs to be stopped in DC."

And Desha may soon be getting some help from the city — at least indirectly. The mayor of Washington, D.C., recently launched a three-year initiative to prevent the spread of HIV in young people. The staff at Metro TeenAIDS will be watching. They hope the city will follow through on its promises, and join them in giving D.C.'s young people the information and skills they need to protect themselves from AIDS.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs