Commercial Appeal (Memphis) (12.04.11) - Friday, December 16,
The University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center and the
Shelby County Health Department marked World AIDS Day by
hosting some 250 teenagers for a special session, "The 411 on
Andrea Williams, community development coordinator for the
infectious-diseases division at St. Jude Children's Research
Hospital, noted that HIV is on the rise locally. "If we don't
reach the youth who could potentially contract the virus, then
there may not be a future in Memphis," she said.
Young people who attended the Dec. 4 session at UTHSC's
Student Alumni Center submitted anonymous questions about sex
and STDs. Pamela Houston, the center's special events
director, said questions like "If I'm on the pill, can I still
get an STD?" or "Can I get HIV from kissing?" indicate a lack
of knowledge on the part of city youths.
"We are skating around the issue, acting like they are not
going to have sex," said Houston. "We're not addressing the
real issue to the real people who have the issue."
Speaker Tameka Harrison worked to dispel some of the myths
young people may have about HIV/AIDS. She asked the youths to
close their eyes and imagine what a person with HIV looks
like. "Most people think of a sickly, skinny person when they
think of someone who is HIV-positive, but I get to show them
that HIV looks just like me - like any person," said Harrison,
who learned a year ago she was HIV-positive.