WASHINGTON, D.C. (Observer Update) - Four Fitchburg State College students will join others from across the country to develop ways to reach tech-savvy teens with messages about the dangers of HIV and AIDS, reported the Worcester (MA) Telegram.
The students — Chris Downs of Fitchburg, Matt Hawkins of Phillipston, Peter Keto of Maynard and Megan Benevides of Rockville, Conn. — have been invited to participate in the inaugural Youth AIDS Media Institute University in Washington, D.C. The national conference, held by Cable Positive, the cable industry’s AIDS action organization, and sponsored by the Motorola Foundation, runs Wednesday to April 1.
The purpose of the event is to challenge students to produce a marketing campaign that will raise HIV and AIDS awareness among an often hard-to-reach group.
“We want to reach teens that normally wouldn’t be involved,” Mr. Downs said.
All four students are volunteers and interns at Fitchburg TeenAIDS-PeerCorps, a charity dedicated to educating teens about HIV/AIDS. Mr. Downs and Mr. Hawkins are in the video production program at Fitchburg State and have used their skills to produce webcasts and videos for teenaids.org.
“The Fitchburg State College students going to YAMI U in Washington are among the best and brightest in the communications field,” said John Chittick, executive director of TeenAIDS-PeerCorps. Mr. Chittick received his doctorate in HIV prevention from Harvard before founding TeenAIDS.
During the conference, students will receive training in video production, pre- and post-production, concept development, campaign message development, and editing and presentation skills. Participants will use the skills they’ve learned to make an original advocacy marketing campaign.
The idea, Mr. Downs said, is to reach teens by using the technology that teens use every day. “We’re working on ideas like text messaging and YouTube to reach teens.”
The awareness campaign that the group develops will debut at the National Cable and Telecommunications Industry’s 2009 cable show. The young people it targets, ages 17-23, represent 45 percent of new HIV infections worldwide, according to the organizers.
The finished campaign will be made available to local AIDS service organizations and cable systems across the country.
Mr. Chittick, besides chaperoning, will present his work utilizing the Internet to broadcast HIV/AIDS prevention messages.
“TeenAIDS has been a pioneer in hosting global webcasts, Internet webinars, blogs, online advice columns, and youth-produced public service announcements for TV,” he said.
TeenAIDS-PeerCorps operates across the United States and internationally, providing medically accurate information for teens and encouraging them to make good decisions. “It’s about letting them know, and getting the facts out there,” Mr. Downs said.
For more information on TeenAIDS-PeerCorps, visit www.teenaids.org.
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