With trophies in hand, participants of the youth basketball tournament at North Division High School, 1011 W. Center St., trickle into the hallways. They are surrounded by cheerful fans, and posters—reading, “What you need to know about Diabetes,” “Tobacco Prevention,” “No Condom, No Way.” Everyone is given a plastic bag with free goodies, and encouraged to participate in the Lindsay Heights “2K12 Connecting Communities” event going on in the high school hallway.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee sponsored the free resource fair on Saturday, Feb. 25, to educate attendees about tobacco health, breast cancer treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Planned Parenthood, No Condom? No Way! (NCNW), Aurora Health Care, Milwaukee Health Services, Inc. (MHSI), Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN), and Wisconsin Hispanic/Latino Tobacco Prevention Network (WHLTPH) were among the vendors.
The event was scheduled in conjunction with the basketball tournament to reach the greatest audience possible. BGC encouraged everyone to take free HIV and STD tests, as well as free vaccinations.
“It’s just so important that everybody knows their [HIV] status and gets tested multiple times a year,” said Sarah Tyree-Francis, health and life skills program manager at BGC. “And it’s great if they get it for free.” According to Tyree-Francis, more than half of new HIV cases in Wisconsin originate in Milwaukee. The rate is even higher in the African American community.
“A lot of people in Milwaukee don’t even want to talk about HIV or how you get HIV. They know about it but don’t really know what their risks are or that it’s as serious as it is in this city,” she said.
According to WAATPN’s information board, tobacco kills a higher percentage of African Americans than any other U.S. group, and menthol cigarettes are the industry’s main lurefor African Americans.
“We believe if they know they are being targeted specifically, maybe it will get some people to wake up and say, ‘This isn’t right. I don’t want to be a target,’” Michael Campbell, project manager of WAAPN said.
Campbell pointed out the marketing strategies that tobacco companies use to make products look like candy. Manipulicious is a WAATPN campaign tool that combines the words “manipulate” and “delicious” to highlight the candy-like design and flavoring of tobacco products.
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