We present a realistic theoretical treatment of a three-level A system in a hot atomic vapor interacting with a coupling and a probe field of arbitrary strengths, leading to electromagnetically-induced transparency and slow light under the two-photon resonance condition. We take into account all the relevant decoherence processes including collisions. Velocity-changing collisions (VCCs) are modeled in the strong collision limit effectively, which helps in achieving optical pumping by the coupling beam across the entire Doppler profile. We take into account a dynamic rate of influx of atoms in the two lower levels of the A, and an outflux from all the three levels. The steady-state expressions for the atomic density-matrix elements are numerically evaluated to yield the experimentally measured response characteristics. Our predictions are in excellent agreement with the reported experimental results for 4He*. The role played by the VCC parameter is seen to be distinct from that by the transit time or Raman coherence decay rate. © 2009 SPIE.