Female campers are part of the SISTA SPEAK Empowerment Camp, a pilot HIV prevention program sponsored by the Fan Free Clinic, the first no-cost public health care clinic in Virginia.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, 22,993 people were living with HIV in Virginia at the end of 2010, and between 2004 and 2008, there were more than 5,000 new diagnoses reported.
One in five Virginians with HIV/AIDS are black women, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The HIV infection rate among blacks in 2009 was almost eight times the rate of whites, the agency said.
About 21 girls, ages 13 to 21, considered at risk for unhealthy relationships, were recommended by social workers for the free camp, which closed this weekend.
The camp was funded by a $10,000 grant from a local high school.
At the camp, the girls joined activities, heard speakers and talked about HIV/AIDs and its toll on black people around Virginia, the nation and the globe.
CDC officials said that from 2006 to 2009, the HIV-infection rates surged for homosexual and bisexual black men.
Sex with an HIV-infected man is the primary source of the virus for black women.
The HIV infection rate among black men was the highest of any group by race and sex - more than six times that of white men - and the rate among black women was 15 times that of white women, the CDC said.
An alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men circles back to women, said Andrew Skerritt, author of an upcoming book titled, "Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial, and the AIDS Epidemic in the South."
"Many women feel 'I'm in a situation where I need to put out to get a man.' The (lack of) availability of black men gives black men an advantage. So the power in the relationship has shifted and black women will compromise and the price of that compromise too many times is HIV," Skerritt said.
Karen Legato, executive director of the Fan Free Clinic, agreed that most outreach is aimed at black males having sex with males.
"But who do they think they are infecting? They are not just infecting each other," she said.
The week-long camp near Richmond features activities designed to boost self esteem and teach HIV prevention strategies.
One wall was decorated with portraits of accomplished African-American women such as Coretta Scott King and Angela Davis who organizers hoped would inspire them.
The words "Wisdom of Our Ancestors" adorned a doorway, as well as Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem" and a Nelson Mandela quote, "The more informed you are the less arrogant and aggressive you are."
"The stronger your self identification and self worth, the easier it is to say no and remove yourself from situations that can cause you a lifetime of pain," said Charlene Brown, Fan Free Clinic's case manager.
The campers were asked during one session to name five ways to protect against HIV and AIDS.
Several teens shouted their No. 1 answer.
"Wrap it up!" they said, referring to using a condom.