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Teens attend Ryan White AIDS conference

The Bridge of Northeast Florida is sending eight area teens, ages 15-17, to attend the 9th annual Ryan White National Youth Conference in Dallas, Texas. The teens are part of The Bridge Straight Talk Peer Educator program which focuses on training youth to engage peers in healthy, effective and thought-provoking discussion regarding the importance of health education and accountability. The Bridge Straight Talk Peer Educator program is funded by a Straight Talk grant from the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation with additional support from the brAIDS and Medtronic Foundation. Each of The Bridge Peer Educators live in high risk communities with staggering rates of teen pregnancy, STD, and HIV/AIDS. Their goal is to positively affect those issues by educating those around them.

The peer educators are a unique and highly successful component of The Bridge Straight Talk Program. All Bridge Straight Talk youth attend weekly workshops, participate in class discussions, learn information and relevant facts on health, safety, and personal responsibility regarding the prevention of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

The Ryan White National Youth Conference expects more than 600 youth and adults from around the nation to attend the event, February 14-17. The purpose is to identify and share effective resources and experiences in the fight against HIV/AIDS among young people and to learn about youth appropriate treatment programs and strategies to aid young people.

The Bridge Straight Talk Program coordinator, Mary Bishop says, "This is a tremendous opportunity for Jacksonville youth to access new information regarding HIV/AIDS, its impact and how important education really is when it comes to your health and your future."

Roxanne Smith, age 15, says, "I see it as a chance to meet people with the same concerns as us, we want to learn more, know more…so we can be better prepared. In Straight Talk we learned how to deal with a lot of important issues and how to talk to our peers about prevention and being smart. At this conference, I feel we will learn even more. Plus I have never been on a plane before, I'm nervous about flying but I am really excited about being a part of the whole event".

The eight youth participating in the conference also helped in raising the funds to pay for the conference trip.

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