News

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.
Comments
     
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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs