By Hook or by Crook

BY HIV Plus Editors

December 01 2009 12:00 AM ET

No one will ever mistake Dwyane Lawson-Brown for just another AIDS educator. He is the after-school coordinator for Metro TeenAIDS in Washington, D.C., yes, but there is also his dreadlocks and afterhours careers in break-dancing and poetry reading.

And then there is the hobby that consumes him -- his self-proclaimed "side hustle," crocheting. It is not his only way of connecting with inner-city teens and others with his AIDS prevention message, but it is definitely his most disarming. The hobby helps put at ease people who might be frightened by, as he puts it, "a black man with dreadlocks." "Really, how hard are you? You're crocheting," he explains.

Lawson-Brown can turn out a scarf in a few days of commuting on Washington's metro system. Hats and bowties are in his repertoire as well. But reaching the city's youth is his passion. He started with Metro TeenAIDS 10 years ago as a volunteer peer educator, and he now nurtures the next generation of teens to carry on the AIDS prevention fight. He has a cadre of peer educators who urge teens to get screened for HIV, use condoms, and think about their futures.

"They remind me of me," Lawson-Brown says.

With the district having some of the highest HIV infection rates in the nation, "I'm starting to realize that some people think it's not their issue," Lawson-Brown says. "That it's only gay people or young people. Everybody puts it off their plate."

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