Students Teaching AIDS to Youth (STAY) is a peer education program made up of students ages 14-22, who teach HIV/AIDS prevention to teenagers. STAY volunteers come from varying ethnic and economic backgrounds and represent schools in high-risk, rural and affluent areas. The volunteers complete a 24-hour Red Cross HIV/AIDS course and additional training specialized for youth. STAY volunteers appear before classrooms, church groups, detention centers and clubs to teach classes that encourage participation, communication and problem-solving skills. In the classes, they emphasize self-reliance and self-esteem. Since the program’s inception, volunteers have educated more than 10,000 peers on the risks of HIV/AIDS infection.
In 1995, the American Red Cross Tulsa Area Chapter developed STAY in response to increased incidences of HIV/AIDS among youth. Since the program’s creation locally, the volunteers have achieved statewide and national recognition. Last year, the Oklahoma Department of Education endorsed STAY for implementation statewide and Tulsa Public Schools made STAY their HIV/AIDS education program of choice.
In June 1997, the young volunteers were invited to the Oklahoma State HIV/AIDS conference. For this meeting, STAY developed a first of its kind youth track. The volunteers were invited to present at the national Ryan White HIV/AIDS conference in 1998 and again in 1999.
STAY volunteers have developed their own set of prevention posters to use in their presentations. They constantly adjust their presentations to meet the needs of their audience, whether young or old, church or alternate school. In the fall of 1996, STAY volunteers created a poster contest to promote greater HIV/AIDS awareness among youth. Volunteers arranged for judging and a continuous traveling display of the winning posters. This year, the contest was expanded to schools statewide, with more than 350 entries.
The program has expanded far beyond its original reach. Although the training is extensive and the time commitment is substantial, the number of volunteers has risen from 10 in 1995 to more than 50 today. Existing volunteers attract new volunteers with poise and maturity developed by publicly speaking about a controversial topic. Additionally, the curriculum has been approved for Red Cross use nationally.