ANSA Board Member Jurnee Smollett speaks to South African students about HIV/AIDS
In 2006, ANSA embarked on a pilot partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District's HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit to increase the impact of their Positively Speaking program. Positively Speaking brings people infected or affected by the disease into middle and high school classes to tell their own stories and lead discussions. Positively Speaking presenters reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS by sharing their personal stories and engaging students in honest discourse about risky behaviors, drugs, and sex, while also educating them about prevention, testing, and treatment.
With support from the MAC AIDS Fund, ANSA's Positively Speaking pilot efforts achieved great success. ANSA Board Member Jurnee Smollett trained as a Positively Speaking presenter so she could go into classrooms and share her own experience of having her two closest friends living with HIV. Jurnee has already spoken to over 2,000 students in small classroom groups and to many thousands more at assemblies, conferences, and larger events. Due to her appeal, ANSA and the Prevention Unit have been able to bring Positively Speaking into previously uninvolved, high-risk schools.
ANSA has recruited and trained a number of presenters who are either under 30, people of color, noted performers, and/or HIV positive. These efforts have increased the reach, visibility, impact, and appeal of Positively Speaking through involving speakers who are relevant and relatable to teenage students.
ANSA continues to work with the LAUSD HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit to:
- Recruit and train more young people, people of color, and artists as presenters
- Increase the frequency of their appearances at schools
- Reach out to educators and administrators to bring Positively Speaking into more schools
- Help Positively Speaking reach more at-risk youth
- Educate public health professionals in other cities about the Positively Speaking model
- Call attention to this model program through the media.