The mission of Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS, Inc. is to promote and advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention education for pre-teens, teens and young adults through collaboration with communities, schools, and houses of worship. ETAH is committed to a comprehensive intergenerational approach that addresses all facets of the youth experience.
Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS, Inc. and Educating Teens about HIV AIDS Month are the results of Kezia L. Ellison's Service Learning Project (SLP) for the Pennsylvania Governor's School of Excellence for Health Care (2000). In February of 2000, Kezia had the opportunity to serve as a Pennsylvania Delegate to the National Summit on Africa and learn about the devastating effects of AIDS on that continent. She was appalled and determined to do something in her community about HIV/AIDS. The SLP for the Governor's School gave her the opportunity. With the belief that education is a crucial component of solving many of todays societal and health problems, she chose to do her SLP on educating teens about HIV/AIDS.
With the motto that HIV/AIDS is 100% preventable, the Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS project was enacted in 2001, while Kezia was a senior in high school. The project is designed to educate teenagers about the deadly impact of the HIV virus and AIDS through collaboration with local communities. The project was created with four primary goals: 1) To spearhead a community effort to educate teenagers about the impact of HIV/AIDS. 2) To encourage teenagers to make informed decisions about engaging in sexual activities. 3) To promote abstinence as a way of preventing the contraction of HIV/AIDS 4) To encourage the practice of safer sex for those who are sexually active.
At Kezia's request in 2001, Pittsburgh's City Council proclaimed the month of March as Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS Month. In 2002, the Allegheny County Council also made the proclamation. Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS Month highlights the need for educating teens about HIV/AIDS and calls attention to how the HIV/AIDS epidemic is effecting youth. The program is in its fourteenth year of operation.
Kezia's decision to continue the Project after she completed the requirements for the Governor's School was easy, because she feels that the need for HIV/AIDS education is still crucial. She remains determined to help fight against this deadly disease. ETAH continues to receive support from Kezia's mother and the original Advisory Board (established in 2001). In March 2005, the program was expanded statewide, and Awareness Days were held in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS, Inc. is now a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization.
Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS, Inc. is grounded in the philosophy that when we educate our teens, we are securing a healthy future. Today’s teens are tomorrow’s workforce, leaders, and decision makers. The investment in teenagers today is an investment in our quality of life for the future. Acknowledging that risky behaviors do not happen in isolation, ETAH uses a comprehensive intergenerational approach that addresses self-esteem, peer pressure, alcohol and drug use, abusive relationships, economics, health, and other issues that affect youth. ETAH takes into consideration the social and cultural experiences of youth. ETAH provides prevention education, while empowering youth to make informed decisions about their health and well-being so that they can protect themselves and maintain a healthy lifestyle.