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Teen develops AIDS education project

Tuesday, March 06, 2001

By Deborah Mendenhall, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When Pittsburgh teen-ager Kezia Ellison learned that some African businesses routinely hire two people for the same job because one would probably die of AIDS, she was "appalled" and determined to effect change.

Kezia Ellison (John Beale, Post-Gazette)
Her chance came a few months later when she was selected to attend the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Health Care 2000, one of seven summer programs that offer leadership training and encourage students to develop service projects in their communities.

As her final project, Ellison, a 17-year old senior at the Ellis School in Shadyside, is leading an effort to educate Western Pennsylvania teen-agers to the risks of HIV and AIDS.

The education campaign will stress making informed decisions, abstinence and safe sex for those who choose not to abstain.

Teens are invited to HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 27 at the University of Pittsburgh's student union. For information, call 412-624-5665

"I believe education is the key to [solving] many of society's health problems and the best method of prevention," said Ellison, of the North Side.

Part of her project is complete. Ellison surveyed 100 local teen-agers on their attitudes and knowledge about HIV and AIDS and will forward her findings to the Governor's School for Health Care.

Stephen B. Thomas, director of Pitt's Center for Minority Health, who is on Ellison's advisory panel, and Charles R. Rinaldo, Pitt's chairman of infectious disease medicine, both praised Ellison for tackling an important social problem.

"We must strengthen risk reduction education, particularly among young men and women who are at greater risk for HIV," Rinaldo said.

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