National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
On National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, April 10, HIV and youth advocates around the country will draw attention to the fact that achieving an AIDS-free generation in the U.S. will require a greater emphasis on tackling the epidemic among youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 40% of new HIV infections in the U.S. are among individuals aged 13–29, and between 2007 and 2010, 15–24-year-olds were the only group to experience an increased rate of new HIV infections.
“For Millennials, like myself, HIV is still a major concern,” says Januari McKay, program coordinator for the National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day at Advocates for Youth. “If we want to see a decline in HIV rates then we must truly prioritize young people, which takes real commitment to implementing programs and policies that can safeguard their health.”
However, despite this need for increased commitment, the percentage of high school students who are educated about HIV in school has steadily declined in recent years, from 92% in 1997 to 85% in 2013. The rate of those learning about safer sex is even lower, with one-third never receiving any formal instruction about contraception. In a 2013 CDC survey, only 41% of sexually active high school students reported using condoms, and only 22% of them—and 35% of young adults aged 18–24—had ever had an HIV test. As a result, approximately 60% of HIV-positive youth under 25 don’t know their status—compared to 14% of all those living with HIV in the U.S.
Young men who have sex with men (MSM) have the highest risk of infection, accounting for 72% of infections among those under 25. However, most MSM do not receive any education in school about reducing their risk, and some states legally require that educators include anti-gay rhetoric as part of their sex-ed curriculum. For example, in Alabama, teachers must emphasize that homosexuality is "not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public," and in Mississippi, they must tell students that homosexuality is illegal—despite the fact that that is false. “After 34 years, it is time that we end the stigma that keeps young people from seeking testing and treatment,” says McKay.
How can you get involved?
Educate young people about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. For resources and facts sheets, click here.
Go to the official National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day website to find a testing center near you.
“Like” National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day’s Facebook page, follow @YouthAIDSDay on Twitter, and share their posts and photos with your friends.
For more information on HIV/AIDS and getting tested, click here.