Haven Youth Center in Kensington is a community youth group that supports and encourages HIV-positive youth to stay in school and be productive citizens.
Haven’s mission includes providing educational, social and recreational activities to the community. The organization acts as a “safe haven” from the stigma the youth may face within their schools, home life and neighborhood.
Executive Director William Brawner is open about his HIV-positive status. He maintains a healthy and optimistic outlook. He contracted the virus after a tainted blood transfusion when he was an infant. He has been living with the virus for 29 years. He can relate to the uncomfortable side effects of the multiple medications and the minimal social support these kids may be experiencing.
Chairman of the Board Christopher Coleman says, “The hospitals offer support groups for HIV-positive kids, but they prefer to come here.” The youth group specifically targets youth between the ages of 13-24.
According to the CDC, 34 percent of the newly infected are under 29 and 79 percent of the 16,000 people living in Philadelphia with HIV/AIDS are black or Hispanic.
Teenagers and “twentysomethings” would rather be socially interacting with their friends, and they need an escape from the daily dose of medications, needles and doctor visits. Haven offers a facility where kids can relax after school and be around other youth in the neighborhood who may be struggling with their status.