HIV and AIDS activist Dr. John Chittick '70 is spreading his message of AIDS awareness and prevention in the Upper Valley this week as he meets students at Dartmouth and area high schools.
Chittick, who spoke to Phi Delta Alpha fraternity Tuesday night, will speak to the Dartmouth community Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Collis Center and to Delta Delta Delta sorority later Wednesday night.
Chittick is the founder and executive director of TeenAIDS-PeerCorps, a nonprofit organization created in 1997 that attempts to educate youth around the world about the dangers of AIDS using grassroots tactics.
One of Chittick's main tools is what he calls "AIDS attacks," which entail approaching young people on the street to inform them about methods of AIDS prevention. Chittick hands passersby small business cards containing facts about AIDS and speaks to them for two to three minutes about the disease.
"I do this because I did a doctoral thesis at Harvard University 12 years ago where I said that the future of AIDS is with youth," Chittick said.
At the time, few people felt that youth was a high-risk group for AIDS transmission. In the early 1980s, only two percent of newly-contracted AIDS cases affected people 15 to 24 years old. Today, that figure is at 50 percent and is expected to rise to 65 percent by 2010.
Chittick taught at the Harvard School of Public Health until founding TeenAIDS-PeerCorps seven years ago as an effort to get out of the classroom and educate young people about high-risk behavior that can result in HIV transmission.
At his talk with Phi Delt members Tuesday night, Chittick related anecdotes of the difficulties he has encountered while traveling around the world in order to disseminate his message. Chittick was arrested in Cuba, detained in Kenya and had his papers confiscated in China.
Groups have also prevented Chittick from speaking on a number of occasions in the United States. The AIDS expert experienced problems speaking to schools in Utah and even in the Upper Valley, where Mascoma High School allegedly would not allow Chittick to speak with current students.
"I'm worried that we're having this moralistic route where we do not talk to young people because of the idea if you talk to them then they'll go out and do it," Chittick said.
Chittick plans on continuing his campaign to fight against AIDS by traveling to a number of countries including Jordan, Sudan and the Republic of the Congo in the next few months.
In addition, he is working on a book, "Teen Sex and AIDS," which is geared toward white adults to inform them of the risks that AIDS poses to young people.
So far, Chittick's talks have been generally well-received on campus.
"It was great that Dr. Chittick was able to come to Phi Delt to talk," Phi Delt Vice President Russell Lane '06 said. "His message was powerful and relevant but was delivered in a manner that made it informative and engaging rather than threatening. All the brothers definitely took something away from the discussion."