Philadelphia laces up for annual AIDS walk

    Walkers are gathering on the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Sunday

    to raise money for HIV and AIDS.

    The Haven Youth Center in Southwest Philadelphia is one group that may benefit. At the center, teens can find a quiet space to do homework, watch some TV or play video games. There’s also help for some hard stuff like telling a friend you have HIV.

    William Brawner leads the center and knows what’s it’s like to negotiate your teen and dating years with a disease that many people fear. Brawner is 31 and has been HIV positive for 30 years.

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    Brawner: So we make sure that this young person is ready and make sure that they are ready for the possibility that someone may not accept them because of their HIV diagnosis. What we do sometimes is we do role plays, we play out different scenarios, and we show them how to respond if things go good and if things go bad.

    Nineteen-year-old Steven hangs out at the center and asked that we not use his last name. He lives with his girlfriend, is expecting a new baby and is HIV positive.

    Steven: You can come here, you don’t have to worry about nobody talking about your business out on the street. Knowing that I have someone supporting me and backing me up helps. It’s just a place to come talk, chill, with teenagers, to know you’re safe.

    Steven says the center also helped him connect with the right medical care to lower the chances that his baby will be born with the AIDS virus.

    Administrators say Haven Center support groups ease social isolation and workers help teens sign up for government health programs and food assistance.

    In Philadelphia, the rate of new HIV infections is five times the national average.

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