UCSF Launches Whatudo.org to Educate Youth on HIV/AIDS and Sexuality

October 18, 2001
News Office: Kevin Boyd (415) 476-8429

An HIV/AIDS web site for youth - http://whatudo.org - was launched today by UCSF's HIV InSite web team to educate youth about the disease and other topics relating to sex and sexuality.

The site was made possible by a grant from the Giants Community Fund.

Whatudo.org targets the 12- to 25-year-old age group, giving clear answers to questions about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as general information on sexuality and relationships. The site also features interviews with youth activists, and offers opportunities to post messages, chat with other youth, and join activist efforts on AIDS and sexual and reproductive health.

"Adolescents, teens and young adults speak a different language, and our intent was to re-package the knowledge from HIV InSite, without changing its quality, into a form that is more approachable and therefore more useful to young people," said Dr. Paul Volberding, co-director of HIV InSite, and chief of the medical service at San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Although it is not the first youth AIDS education website, whatudo.org covers the topic more thoroughly, and it focuses some of its content on HIV positive youth, an oft-ignored group, said Dr. Larry Peiperl, executive editor of whatudo.org and HIV InSite, and UCSF assistant clinical professor of medicine.

"Other sites aren't able to draw from HIV InSite's huge database of information, and they tend not to offer information about HIV-positive youth. The few organizations that do cater to HIV-positive youth are cash-strapped, and so don't have the resources to produce and maintain a site that is continually updated," he said.

HIV-positive youth who visit the site can find interviews with other youth like them, including a young woman who gave birth after testing positive, as well as a general information such as page that answers the question, "I just tested positive -- now what?" The San Francisco Giants Community Fund provided the site's $40,000 start-up grant in 2000, and earlier this summer Volberding attended the Giants 8th Annual "Until There's a Cure Day" to accept a $20,000 renewal grant from the Fund, through the Until There's a Cure Foundation.

Giants Community Fund board member Michael Crockett says the Fund plans to support the site's continued growth, so that more youth will be able to use it. "The board of directors is committed to supporting whatudo.org, and to helping them spread the word about AIDS, so that hopefully we can discontinue the spread of this disease," he said.

The Rotary Club also helped to support the site, and the advertising agency Kirchenbaum, Bond and Partners West donated their time and expertise to help design the site.

The web site also includes interviews and profiles of a variety of young people from the San Francisco Bay Area who are involved in HIV prevention and support groups. In the future, HIV InSite staff plan to include national and international organizations and youth.

Young people also will be involved in the site's ongoing development, to ensure that it keeps pace with their needs, interests and tastes, Volberding said. This may be achieved through internships and partnerships with local schools or educational groups.

The site's front page prominently displays some of the alarming statistics about HIV/AIDS among youth: Worldwide, more than 50 percent of all new HIV infections are in people 15 to 24 years old. However, young people make up only about 30 percent of the world's population. Of new AIDS cases among teens in the United States, girls make up 58 percent and African-Americans make up 60 percent.

HIV InSite (http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu) is the most comprehensive source of information on the Internet about HIV disease. The site was created and is written and edited by internationally recognized experts. Each month HIV InSite receives more than 3 million hits from users in more than 150 countries.

Dr. Thomas Coates, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the AIDS Research Institute, is co-director (with Volberding) of HIV InSite.

The San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been a primary affiliate of University of California, San Francisco since 1974. The UCSF School of Medicine and the SFVAMC collaborate to provide education and training programs for medical students and residents at SFVAMC. SFVAMC maintains full responsibility for patient care and facility management of the medical center. Physicians at SFVAMC are employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and also hold UCSF faculty appointments.