Just a day after the governor announced New York would ramp up its efforts to fight the AIDS epidemic, a Bronx teacher who's been doing that for years was told his methods are inappropriate, as NY1's Erin Clarke reports.
Teacher Tom Porton handed out a flyer to students at the Monroe Academy of Visual Arts and Design, a public high school in the Bronx, just like he's done every World AIDS Day.
"101 ways of showing love without having sex for World AIDS Days. Number one, tell her 'I love you,'" Porton reads from the flyer.
It touts ways to be intimate without having sex. A message Porton says is especially important in a neighborhood where the rate of HIV and AIDS infection has been historically high and most teens aren't practicing safe sex.
"It brings awareness to our teens that we need other ways to promote love instead of in bed," said Millie Vega, a family worker.
Porton began this mission in 1991 when he was an HIV/AIDS Peer Educator in a program at then James Monroe High School.
He's been honored repeatedly his work. His former students call him a godsend.
"He saved my life and I owe everything to him and he has saved hundreds if not thousands of teenagers who not only have gone to Monroe but also in the Bronx and the outer-boroughs," said Jillian Marty-Dushane, a former student.
But this World AIDS Day, the school's principal said the flyer was inappropriate and told Porton to stop distributing it.
Other than in the title of this pamphlet, the word sex isn't mentioned at all. Instead, it suggest things like holding hands, sharing secrets.
But in a statement, the principal said the most appropriate place to talk about sex education and HIV Prevention is in health classes, taught by licensed teachers.
However Porton says there are no health classes this semester and mandated HIV/AIDS education isn't provided to a community where students and their families still struggle with the virus.
"I don't think he understands the community or the students or why we do this," Porton said.
"It’s a slap into the face of all the HIV and AIDS peer educators that were not only working in Monroe, but all the people who have died in the Bronx and worldwide for HIV and AIDS"
The long-time teacher says he just wants to be left alone to do the good work he has for years, but he won't be deterred.
He will speak at his annual HIV/AIDS conference at Montefiore Medical Center in May.