Chicago teens meet to talk about safe sex

City officials are bringing Chicago youth together to talk about the importance about safe sex and the danger of sexually transmitted infections.

The city recently held its first Youth Summit, a daylong gathering for teens living in public housing on the topic of sexual health.

The event at Illinois Institute of Technology, entitled "Hip Hop to Health" featured teens from the Chicago Teen Health Council program, a group of high school-aged youth who have been studying up on health issues since last summer.

They helped educate public housing youth about the risks and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, like HIV and AIDS.

"If you know anything about teenagers, if other teens are the experts, they are going to listen to them," says Mary Ellen Caron of the Department of Family and Supportive Services, who organized the event.

The summit used games, lectures and technology, to help kids learn about safe sex. Teens who attended said the message made an impact - 97 percent of the participants said it was worthwhile, and 80 percent said they wouldn't have unsafe sex as a result of what they learned that day, according to Caron.

The department plans to hold six more health summits throughout Chicago by the end of June. They planned this event for youth living in public housing first because Caron says poverty can limit access to educational resources.

"We make it a priority to serve those that are the most vulnerable," says Caron. "We try to do something when kids are out of school so that they have something to do that's positive when they are out of school."

The kids who attended the event are part of an afterschool program for youth living in public housing. Chicago Housing Authority officials say partnerships like these help bring resources to young people living in public housing.

"Hip Hop to Health successfully offered teens alternatives that helped them become the smarter, healthier leaders for tomorrow," said Lewis Jordan, CEO for CHA.

DFSS is already planning similar events on different topics. The Youth Safety Council will likely  be a part of future summits, possibly focusing on violence prevention and conflict resolution.

Megan Cottrell covers public housing for the Daily News. She can be reached at 773-362-5002, ext. 12

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CASUAL ENCOUNTERS, 05-21-2009

Teenagers "say" a lot of stuff that they don't do. http://casualencounters.com/blog/