Teen AIDS Task Force
TEEN AIDS TASK FORCE
Young people have a lot of questions about sex and need honest answers. The Teen AIDS Task Force (TATF) provides answers to those questions as well as a safe place to talk about important decisions.
Established in 1992, Teen AIDS Task Force is all about peer leadership. TATF is an adolescent driven, peer education initiative that equips youth and young adults with the information and skills needed to understand and prevent HIV/STDs while promoting positive behavioral change and sexual health.
TATF works with youth and young adults ages 9-22. TATF provides comprehensive HIV/STD prevention education, giving youth and young adults lifelong skills needed to practice alternatives to risky behaviors, while promoting positive social development. TATF members challenge and inform other teens to address the growing issues facing young people when it comes to HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
TATF Peer Leaders gain:
• Education – TATF members receive specialized up-to-date training about HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
• Peer Leadership – TATF members, trained as facilitators, design creative ways to get HIV/STD information out to their peers.
• Community Service Opportunities – By participating in TATF activities, members receive a certificate documenting earned community service/volunteer hours.
AIDS Community Resources offers TATF programming in middle and high schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, teen drop in centers, after school activity centers, churches, mental health facilities, and juvenile detention centers.
If you would like to learn more about TATF or set up a TATF chapter, call 1.800.475.2430 or email TATF Supervisor Marissa Rice at mrice@AIDSCommunityResources.com.
Living and Dying in the North Country with HIV/AIDS
For the past two years, Teen AIDS Task Force chapters throughout ACR’s nine county service area have hosted displays of AIDS Quilt panels. In the North Country, TATF Coordinator Angela Foster, posing front row center with the Indian River Drama Club TATF, drives many miles and spends long days sharing the personal stories of lives lost to AIDS.
Traveling St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties each year with the AIDS Memorial Quilts is always a bittersweet experience for me. It’s disturbing to see how far we have yet to go to make it clear to our friends, neighbors, and co workers just how real AIDS is in rural northern New York. As the Quilt traveled through the counties, so did the hope, empowerment, and education that travels along with it.
It’s uncomfortable to think about AIDS in our own community. Much time was spent talking with the youth in our local schools about why teens living in rural communities are at an increased risk for HIV infection. Our teens had honest and open discussions about the reduced number of available partners, the false sense of security that comes from knowing your partner since childhood, the lack of opportunity for productive and meaningful activities with which to fill their free time, the “coolness” and normalcy attached to partying with local college students along with its consequences for our local high school campuses, and the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in our community.
In one school, a student found the name of her uncle on a quilt panel hanging from the rafters of the gymnasium and broke down in tears. She told me that before her Grandma died a few years ago she told this youth she had a son who died of AIDS in the early 80s. Despite frequent questions, this teen’s family refused to talk with her about AIDS, or about the uncle she never knew. All day long, she came into the gym, time after time, to ask one more question, or take one more look at the panel.
At another local school, with a gymnasium full of faculty and youth, teens were protesting vehemently that HIV/AIDS doesn’t, nor will it ever, affect them because they don’t know anyone who is living with the disease. One incredibly brave teacher spoke up, and informed the students that each and every one who had taken a class with her did indeed know someone who was HIV positive. She talked openly about an unfaithful husband and how being tested during her pregnancy for their first child had yielded a positive result. You could have heard a pin drop in that gym, and the “ah hah” moment was clear on the face of each and every person present.
The stories from our own communities are endless. Each special to so many, but known by so few. To each of you with the courage to share them, thank you! I am deeply grateful and truly honored.
PIZZA WITH SANTA
Every year Westhill High School TATF sponsors a family-friendly community-wide fundraiser to benefit the AIDS Walk/Run. Advisor Debbie D’Angelo and TATF chapter members raised $1,000 to count toward their entry in the 2011 AIDS Walk/Run. ACR uses the money for youth HIV/STD prevention programs.
Each TATF member brought lots of home-made cookies that were served with pizza and lemonade by TATF members volunteering in the kitchen. The rest of the TATF members (also known as Santa’s Helpers) volunteered in the large room, running different activities: ornament making, face painting, bowling, storytelling, “pin the nose of the reindeer” and a TV corner playing Christmas Fairy Tales. The biggest attraction of the event was, of course, Santa Claus, who arrived on a fire truck and spent the evening talking to children and listening to their Christmas wishes. It was extremely successful, with over 300 people and children attending!
TATF members at Westhill would like to offer a huge THANK YOU to all the parents and staff that helped make this event such a success. They couldn’t have done it without you!