The message about AIDS delivered to 250 high school students at Towson State University yesterday was simple but potent: It can happen to you.
The one-day AIDS conference, sponsored by the Baltimore County Health Department, offered workshops on AIDS prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse, safe sex and testing for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.
"It was a good kick into reality," said Jen Jackson, a senior at Chesapeake High School in Essex who was among the students addressed by speakers from the city and county health departments, public schools, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Maryland AIDS Administration.
The fourth annual Stopping AIDS For Everyone (SAFE) conference was intended to help students provide information about acquired immune deficiency syndrome to their peers.
Nationally, teen-agers are becoming infected with HIV at a higher rate than any other age group. Federal officials estimate that 25 percent of all new HIV infections occur in people 13 to 21 years old.
Students were encouraged to support or form SAFE clubs in which teen-agers teach each other about AIDS. About 20 such clubs operate in public and private Baltimore County schools.
In one workshop, Pam Dudek, a clinical social worker for the county, asked students four questions: Have you ever had unprotected sex? Had sex while you were drunk? Injected drugs? Gotten pierced or tattooed?
"If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, you have risked HIV infection," Dudek said. "You are engaging in voluntary behavior that you need to change."
In another workshop, a 20-year-old woman with HIV, a 38-year-old man with HIV and a 39-year-old man with AIDS talked about their experiences.
The man with AIDS, who identified himself only as Bill, said he contracted HIV 10 years ago by sharing needles with fellow drug addicts. He said he has been sober for eight years and feels healthy despite bouts of fatigue.
He said he "had to go back and tell anyone I had sex with about having AIDS. That was rough."
Kevin, the 38-year-old man, asked that his last name not be used. He said he was infected with HIV 11 years ago through unprotected sex but has not experienced any symptoms.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she contracted HIV when she was raped four years ago. She is married and has a 16-month-old daughter who has tested negative for HIV.
"I think it's very brave of these people to tell us about their lives," said Angela Brown, a 10th-grader at Chesapeake High School. "Our parents and teachers can talk to us about AIDS, but it's not the same as hearing about a firsthand experience."
Pub Date: 10/17/96