Voice of America News (09.11.07) - Wednesday, September 19,
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
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
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.