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Gang hazing report sparks AIDS awareness campaign
by Tom Farmer
Monday, September 22, 2003

Alarmed at reports of Worcester gangs trying to push girls into having sex with HIV-positive members as part of an initiation rite, city officials have launched a public awareness campaign to warn young people about the dangers of both gangs and AIDS.

Several girls have told city health officials they were pressured into having sex with HIV-infected gang members but there is no indication anyone has, according to Ronald Charette of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center. ``It's on their radar screen of things to do and that's the scary thing about it, that it's even being taken seriously for consideration,'' said Charette.

``These kids have a feeling of invincibility and no matter what you tell them, they have information that they think is accurate. They don't think there is a risk because they think there is a cure around the corner or a pill they can take.''

Charette said officials have started warning parents and children between the ages of 12 and 16 ``that gangs are very real and very much actively recruiting kids in the neighborhood. We have to become parent police,'' he said.

``We also want to give parents the latest information on AIDS and HIV so they can pass it on to their children.''

Health officials also want to work with the Worcester police gang unit and educators, as well as youth groups and churches, to get out their message, Charette said.
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