Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In Their Own Words

Recently, a colleague returned from a conference with a DVD produced by MTV called Think HIV: This is Me, that shows teens and young adults from across the country talking openly about their experience with HIV. Most of the youth are HIV positive and all of the video clips are self-recorded, which adds a rawness to their stories about living with HIV that is both compelling and painful to watch.

Young people from all backgrounds – suburban, urban, white, Latino, African-American, male and female- talk openly about the impact of being HIV positive. Youth filmed themselves in their rooms, in clinics, getting their test results, fighting with partners, and disclosing their status. One of the women talks about the judgment and whispers she faced in school after peers learned of her HIV status, while another candidly shares about not having disclosed her status to a partner. By featuring all types of people living with HIV, the video challenges stereotypes about who gets HIV.

While viewing the video, I was struck by how rarely real young people have the opportunity to talk about the important things in their lives. Even with the ubiquity of “reality” television, it is unusual to let young people, especially young women, be frank and honest about what happens in their lives. Given the glamorized, superficial, and sexualized way youth typically are portrayed in the media, it was refreshing to see real people telling real stories about things that matter. Talking about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy is not easy. But, videos like this one show that the first step is just giving young people the means to tell their story in their own words.

by: Shannon Flynn, Director of Research and Evaluation, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
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