Sunday, July 3, 2011

6th Annual Iris House Women's Conference: Teen Summit

On the second day of the 6th annual Iris House Women as The Face of AIDS conference, The YOU! Project of Iris House hosted a summit focused on teens, HIV, AIDS, and STD’s. Held at the New York Academy of Medicine, teens from all over New York City and New Jersey attended. The presentations focused on 1. Teaching the difference between HIV and AIDS and 2. The effect of STDs on the body. Since most of the presenters were also teens or young adults the summit was particularly effective in reaching its participants.   

The first segment of the summit began with a workshop called “HIV 101” which explained what HIV and AIDS are and the difference between the two. Many people don't realize that HIV is a virus that infects the immune system and kills white blood cells or T cells. AIDS is a more advanced form of HIV in which the immune system is so weak that any illness can become deadly. The workshop also dispelled myths associated with the infection and disease. Myths like, it's possible to contract HIV from a toilet seat or that hugging an HIV infected person can spread the virus. Also shared were tips on how to prevent contracting the disease, such as abstaining from sex, using protection for safe sex, and using clean needles when getting a tattoo. 

Sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STD’s and STI’s) were the next topic of discussion. Teens learned just how prevelant STDs and STIs are in their age group. According to one STUDY, IN 2009, the city of New York reported 19,035 cases of Chlamydia in people ages 15-19 years old. Gonorrhea was reported at 2,754 cases in the same age group. To drive home the seriousness of these diseases and infections, presenters discussed and showed pictures of how STD’s can affect a person, both internally and externally. Though graphic in nature, both the dialog and visuals helped the teens to understand just how damaging an STD can be.

The summit ended with variety of performances and demonstrations. From spoken word and stepping to how to properly put on a condom and what types of lubricant you should use (such as flavored lubricant for oral use and non flavored lubricant for genetalia). Though teens enjoyed the entertainment, a few if the demonstrations were a little uncomfortable for some. For example, a 12-year-old boy, who was granted permission to attend the workshop by his parents/guardians, he hesitated to practice putting a condom on a modeled penis until one person in the group encouraged him that it would be a “life lesson to learn”.

Summit organizer, Debra Bosier-Allen, specializes in creating HIV/AIDS and STD conferences for teens.“We have a lot of teen workshops, we go all over to do," she said," We do it here, over in the Bronx, Jersey, all over.We provide HIV 101 workshops primarily to high schools, churches. We’ve done several interventions for the young people.”  Other teen and young adult programs that Ms. Busier-Allen has created are Listen Up (for young heterosexual men), D-UP (for young gay men), and the Willow Intervention (for young women who are infected with HIV). 

Overall the summit was interesting and informative. Although I was there to cover the event I was also an attendee and participated in the demonstration on how to put a condom properly. Since most of the audience were in middle and high school (with only 3 young adults) it was in their best interest to learn about HIV/AIDS and STD/STI’s . They’re in the phase of their lives in which they become sexually active and, regardless of sexual orientation, need to learn about the risks that come with having sex and ways to protect themselves from catching an infection.

For more information regarding about STD’s, where to get tested for HIV, or to find a low cost clinic, go to email

--Nelson Morales, Jr.
GET DOWN Youth Blog Squad

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