AIDS Awareness In Madison County (AAIM)

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Alton, Ill.
(618) 463-1906

Objective: Promoting AIDS Awareness in the St. Louis area through hip-hop culture and youth-run media campaigns.

In a Nutshell: AAIM is a new, experimental community collaborative effort overseen by the Madison County Urban League to increase the awareness of AIDS among African-American youth. AAIM uses multimedia activities including: the creation of CDs of songs related to HIV/AIDS, a 45-minute AIDS education video, dramatic performances, a community concert, community billboards and weekend retreats.

Where It Happens: In churches, schools and community centers in Madison County.

When It Began: The program began Nov. 1, 2001, and will end June 1, 2002.

Who Started It: William Goldsmith created AAIM using a model for another program he had established with the Urban League in 1999. Goldsmith had begun working in youth service with a mentoring program through his college fraternity.

Who Runs It: Goldsmith directs the program with the help of program assistant Traci McKinney, and musicians Joe Alfrod and Jessie Prather.

Early Obstacles: As an outside agency, it was difficult to manage the program through schools. Goldsmith says he had problems coordinating the kids, getting messages to them, and scheduling classrooms. Many of the kids had a hard time trying to stay focused on the real content of their lyrics because they wanted to sound cool.

How They Overcome Them: Goldsmith made contacts in the schools who aired announcements about AAIM over the P.A. systems, scheduled classrooms and collected permission slips and forms. To help the youths develop lyrical skills and avoid cursing while writing relevant content, Goldsmith purchased rhyming dictionaries for every participant and gave classes on lyric writing for rap music.

Cost: The budget for the program is $125,000. The music equipment and digital recorder cost Goldsmith around $15,000.

Who Pays: The Illinois Department of Public Health’s Minority Services gave the campaign a $125,000 grant for the period between October 2001 and June 2002. The program is free to participants.

Who Else Has Kicked In:
Tri-Cities Area United Way gave $7,000 and Target Stores contributed $2,000 to MISTA, a forerunner of AAIM. Madison County AIDS Prevention (MADCAP) has helped by providing information for the education portion of the curriculum, while WFUN-FM in St. Louis provided free airtime for the Black HIV Awareness Day last month.

Youth Served:
AAIM serves 90 kids. Goldsmith lets the partnering organizations (churches, schools, etc.) decide which youth to send, the only criteria being that they must show up for each weekly session.

Youth Turn-On: This program attracts lots of local media attention. More kids ask to join the program after they see their peers on television or in the newspaper.

Youth Turn-Off: Lengthy educational presentations and lectures by the same presenter. The kids like to see different presenters with 30- to 40- minute presentations that allow time for discussion and dialogue.

What Still Gets in the Way: Participants can be very camera- or microphone-shy and cause a five-minute task to take hours. Even the most extroverted kids sometimes freeze up during recording. “Trying to make them feel comfortable and confident takes more time than anything,” Goldsmith says.