“You never know who could be HIV positive,” said Krishona Brown, a student at Albany High School. “Our experience has helped us put a face to the disease and we learned that anyone can be HIV positive: even people just like us.”
Krishona is a member of the Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood’s S.T.A.R.S. (Seriously Talking About Responsible Sex) peer education program. The S.T.A.R.S. are gearing up to provide tours and lead workshops at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center during Albany’s weeklong commemoration of World AIDS Day. Events will take place from November 29 through Wednesday, December 1 and will revolve around the exhibit of the AIDS Memorial Quilt Display.
UHPP S.T.A.R.S. peer educators come from Albany, Chatham, Hudson and Taconic Hills High Schools. They will work in pairs to guide groups of students through the display which features over 2,000 panels made in memory of those lost to HIV/AIDS. The peer teams welcome each school group, facilitate a pre-and-post test knowledge survey, lead a tour of the exhibit and then help them process the experience with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS prevention education.
In preparation for this 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, met with HIV positive presenters ages 18-24, and practiced their presentation skills. The training helped them learn more about HIV/AIDS, debunked myths surrounding HIV positive people, and prepared them to teach other young people about HIV/AIDS.
The S.T.A.R.S. program is made possible by a Community Based Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention grant from the NYS Department of Health. Hundreds of teens in Albany and Columbia Counties have been involved in the program since its creation. These students learn to provide information about pregnancy prevention, healthy relationships, HIV/AIDS, and other critical healthcare issues to other youth. As Tiffani Bonenfant said “what we do is really important. A lot of students come to me with questions because they are too timid to ask a doctor or too shy to ask their parents. It is great that our peers feel comfortable coming to us with these important issues.”
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 providing advocacy, education and medical services for reproductive health care since 1934. In 2008, over 11,000 patients made 22,257 visits to UHPP health centers located in Albany, Hudson and Troy. UHPP health educators present over 500 education programs reaching over 6,000 youth and young adults each year. UHPP services are delivered with special concern for the underserved.