Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood's (UHPP) high school peer educators, S.T.A.R.S. (Seriously Talking About Responsible Sex) will provide tours and lead workshops November 29 through Wednesday, December 1 at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center during Albany's weeklong commemoration of World AIDS Day. The S.T.A.R.S. members, who come from Albany and Columbia Counties, will be working in pairs to guide groups of students through the exhibit of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Over 2,000 panels of the quilt will be exhibited in the Convention Center. Each panel has been made in memory of someone lost to HIV/AIDS.
In preparation for the event, the S.T.A.R.S. members attended a training session facilitated by the NYS Department of Health AIDS Institute where they networked with other peer educators from the Capital Region, who will also serve as tour guides. They also heard from, and spoke with, HIV positive presenters ages 18-24, and then practiced their own presentation skills. The training covered facts and myths about HIV/AIDS and how to teach other young people about the disease.
While leading the tours, the peer educators will facilitate a pre-and-post test knowledge survey; then help the groups process the experience with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS prevention education. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 1 million Americans living with HIV and 500,000 living with AIDS today. Since the first case of AIDS in 1981 there have been 1,142,714 people infected and 575,000 deaths. Roughly 56,000 new cases of HIV are diagnosed each year and 17,000 cases of AIDS.
Most of the planned tours for the quilt are organized by middle and high schools in the region, though some groups come by bus from father away. This year, UHPP is working with its VOX: Voices for Choice college chapters to also encourage local college students to visit the display. According to The National Council on Family Relations, most college students today are not concerned about AIDS and do not think they are at risk. Exposure to the diverse and very personal stories portrayed through the quilt, followed by educational presentations provided by high school students, could prove to be an eye-opening experience for college students.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt conveys, in a very personal way, how AIDS not only affects those who are infected, but also takes a traumatic toll on friends and family members. Each panel of the quilt is dedicated to someone who has died from AIDS. The person's name is noted, along with their occupation, to help viewers feel more connected. HIV/AIDS is not something that people think about on a daily basis, but this display is not easily forgotten. "The quilts often make people tear up," states Loren Moore, Youth Program Facilitator at UHPP. "It brings out sympathy, empathy and new understanding...I have never seen anyone who viewed it react negatively."
The UHPP S.T.A.R.S. program is made possible by a Community Based Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention grant from the NYS Department of Health. Since its creation over 10 years ago, hundreds of teens in Albany and Columbia counties have enjoyed getting involved. These students learn to provide information about pregnancy prevention, healthy relationships, HIV/AIDS, and other critical healthcare issues to their peers. The S.T.A.R.S peer educators collectively agree that, "it is important to participate in this event because there is an obligation to raise awareness in regards to HIV/AIDS, especially among other high school and college students."
S.T.A.R.S. members are available to provide workshops to school and community groups. For information, please call Meaghan Carroll at (518) 434-5678 x 160.
Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood (UHPP) is a community-based non-profit organization working to promote healthy sexuality and reproductive choice through exceptional services, honest education and fearless advocacy since 1934. In 2010, over 13,000 patients made nearly 23,000 visits to UHPP health centers located in Albany, Hudson and Troy. UHPP health educators present over 350 education programs reaching over 4,800 youth and young adults. UHPP services are delivered with special concern for the underserved.
Blue Carreker, 518-434-5678
November 23, 2011