Jamie Morales Takes on AIDS

Life's thrown 15-year-old Jamie Morales a bunch of curve balls. Her mother, uncle, and godfather have all died of AIDS-related illnesses and her father is currently infected. But instead of crying foul, the Kansas teen has stepped up to the plate to educate others about the deadly disease.

"I wanted to get involved because I know what it is like -- not being infected, but being affected," says Jamie. "I did not want anyone to have to go through what I did in order to learn about this disease."

Jamie started working with youth education groups when she was only 8 years old to warn peers about the risk of contracting HIV and to explain how they could protect themselves. One group she worked with developed ads that ran in local movie theaters and an educational video that was shown in the Wichita, Kansas, school system.

In the 8th grade, Jamie traveled around Kansas, sharing her family's sad story with about 5,000 people -- kind of puts that class oral presentation in perspective, doesn't it? She's also been involved in fund-raising events, designing hand-painted scarves, and participating in AIDS Walks every year.

Her personal crusade hasn't gone by unnoticed. In 1998 she received the Metropolitan Life Foundation/National AIDS Fund "Caring Counts" award for her efforts to educate and her positive attitude in the face of tragic circumstances.

Jamie recently spoke at World AIDS Day in Washington, D.C., and at the Ryan White National Youth Conference on HIV and AIDS. And she says her plans for future include more of the same.

Those that know her say she's pretty shy but becomes empowered on stage when sharing her intimate knowledge of being affected by AIDS. Jamie says it's simple: "The more that is done to educate, the more that is done to save other people."

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