Kids Call for HIV Lessons in Hip-hop

RAINBOW/PUSHAt the "Hip Hop & Youth – Politics & Strategies" workshop held during the recent RAINBOW/PUSH Wall Street Project Conference, founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson, young attendees talked to about what responsibilities hip-hop artists have in addressing HIV/AIDS.

How is AIDS addressed in your community?

Takia, 16, Bronx: AIDS is not addressed in my circle. No one actually knows what AIDS is or how can you get AIDS or what you can do to stop or prevent AIDS.

What type of responsibility do hip-hop artists have to address AIDS?

Takia, 16: A lot of them talk about sex. They open it like it’s no big deal, like it’s a candy. They don’t tell kids that sex isn’t something that you just do. It comes with consequences. It’s not something you just have.

Ighorn, 13, Bronx: I think they do address it how they should. My fellow students always talk about how AIDS is a bad disease, which it is, so everyone should just have protected sex to protect themselves.

Mark, 14, Long Island: They don’t address the negative part of it and they don’t address the aftermath of what happens.

How can hip hop erase the stigma of HIV/AIDS?

Mark, 14: By writing songs about what happens when you do it and what happens after you do it, rather than just what happens before you do it.

Takia, 16: Instead of talking about all this stuff in their music – for example, Lil’ Kim talking about I did this or I did that – they should teach the kids that you don’t do that. There needs to be more responsibility. There needs to be more organization. People need to get more involved.

Do you ever feel threatened by AIDS?

Francois, 13, Brooklyn: Sometimes I do feel threatened. Whoever you have sex with, you don't know what they have. They only tell you after and then you know you're going to pass away.

Barris, 15, Brooklyn: I'm scared that I might get it if I mess with the wrong girl. That's why I wear condoms.

Below, two peer educators from the Bronx talk about their experiences as health advocates.

Joel, 17: A lot of the misconceptions and stereotypes are that it's a gay disease and that's completely wrong. Anyone is at risk -- anyone that's not using a condom.

Every school needs to educate kids health issues, especially HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases that teens are getting. You can catch an STD in such an easy way, it's unbelievable. A lot of kids don't know that. A lot of people are just making out with anybody and doing promiscuous behavior. They don't realize that it's so easy to catch an STD. In a blink of an eye you can catch something you can't cure.

Christiana, 16: Everybody should think of it like this: I could get it, you could get it, any of us could get it. If you're having unprotected sex or sharing needles of any kind, you're at risk.

Most people are scared to get tested because they're scared to find out the truth. Like if they have it, they're scared to get rejected.

They should make getting tested for HIV mandatory. Half of the people out there [who are HIV positive] don't know it.

This article was edited by Charles Hamilton, 15; Jose Molina, 17; and Tarissa Whitley, 14.

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