Blair peer educators attend AIDS symposium at Georgetown University

Dec. 2, 2004, midnight | By Caitlin Garlow | 16 years, 1 month ago

World AIDS Day promotes awareness, prevention

A group of Blair peer educators attended the AIDS Day Symposium at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) yesterday, Dec. 1, as a part of the activities celebrating World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day is an annual event that commemorates the 20 million victims of AIDS since 1981 and promotes AIDS education among the current population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site. As a part of World AIDS Day, local health departments often provide free HIV screening.

Mary Young, M.D., a Professor of Medicine at GUMC, opened the GUMC program with a talk on "HIV Women's Initiative” to go along with this year's World AIDS Day theme of "Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS,” according to senior peer educator Greg Breads, who attended the program.

Young was followed by Daniel Lucey, M.D., M.P.H., a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at GUMC, who compared HIV to other global epidemics such as the plague and smallpox.

Following the speakers was a panel of adults living with HIV or AIDS that described the consequences of contracting the disease, said Breads. "There were some really touching stories,” said Breads as he recounted the story of one panelist who, after lying bed-ridden for several months, was able to regain her strength and walk again. "She just refused to accept death,” he said.

Dr. John Hogan and Dr. Leonard Rosenthal of GUMC moderated the panelists' discussion.

After attending the first GUMC event with Rosenthal, Blair health teacher Susan Soulé started the AIDS peer education program at Blair. "[The GUMC program] is really for medical students, but in past years, Dr. Rosenthal has invited any high school to attend,” Soulé said. As a result of her contact with Rosenthal, Soulé was also able to arrange for two of the panelists to visit and talk to her health classes each year.

Blair is one of the only high schools in the area, except for James Hubert Blake High School, that has an AIDS peer education program, according to Soulé. Peer educators teach tenth-grade health classes about HIV/AIDS in an attempt to appeal to them on a more personal level.

Soulé explained the importance of the program by citing the high infection rates among the youth population. "Fifty percent of new infections [are attributed to people] between the ages of 15 and 24,” said Soulé.

After participating in peer education for the last year and a half, Breads has acknowledged the importance of educating youths about HIV/AIDS. "It really wipes out huge portions of the population,” he said.

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Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »

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