Tour tells kids about HIV/AIDS risk

With young people aged 15-25 accounting for half of all new HIV infections, a national tour arrives in Kamloops Monday to counter misinformation, stigma and stereotyping.

The 411 Initiative for Change Tour uses contemporary music and a talk-show-style format to tell students they are not immune to HIV/AIDS.

Masia One, a Toronto rap artist, will host a show at Sa-hali secondary school while award-winning hip hop artist Rochester performs. Students from other schools will attend the show as well.

"Young people feel invincible - they don't think this is going to affect them - and also there is not enough information reaching them," said Tamara Dawit, program director.

Surveys indicate a majority of Canadian students believe there is a cure for HIV infection or that it is a foreign issue.

"Young people think of AIDS happening somewhere over in Asia or Africa and don't think of it happening in Canada," Dawit said. There are also a lot of misconceptions about disease transmission.

The 90-minute presentation is designed to be engaging and thought provoking.

"Many young Canadians are surprised to learn that in Canada, 12 people are infected by HIV every day," said Sterling Downey, president of 411. "411 is working to present the most accurate information in a format that is palatable to young people. This is why we use pop culture elements and musicians in our programming."

The program works in partnership with Keep a Child Alive, which was co-founded by recording artist Alicia Keys. Keep a Child Alive relies on Canadian musicians, who share their personal experiences, ranging from obtaining HIV tests to meeting with HIV-positive youth and orphans in Africa.

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