Today marks National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, an opportunity to recognize the impact of HIV on young people in the United States.
Growing up, Margaret Chappell was taught two common misconceptions about HIV: that the virus only affects certain groups of people, and that HIV is something to be afraid of. Today, Chappell advocates for the needs of young people living with and affected by HIV as an intern with HRC Foundation’s HIV and Health Equity Program.
“Outdated ways of thinking will not help us end this epidemic,” says Chappell. “As aspiring, young leaders, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and our loved ones about the current realities of HIV. We must take on this fight as our own.”
Fast Facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- At the end of 2012 (the latest data available), 44 percent of youth living with HIV between the ages of 18 and 24 were unaware of their HIV status.
- From 2005 to 2014, HIV rates among young, Black gay and bisexual men, as well as young, Latinx gay and bisexual men, increased by a staggering 87 percent. Among young, White gay and bisexual men, rates increased by 56 percent.
- While HIV diagnosis rates have stabilized in recent years (2010-2014) among Black gay and bisexual men and their White counterparts, they have continued to go up significantly among young Latinx gay and bisexual men.
- Lack of comprehensive sex education: The quality of sex education varies across the United States, and in most states, fewer than half of all high schools cover the 16 critical topics recommended by the CDC, such as gay and bisexual male health.
- Stigma around HIV: In a 2012 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 84 percent of youth aged 15 to 24 said there is stigma around HIV in the U.S. Given such widespread perceptions of stigma, many young people may not feel comfortable getting tested or treated for HIV.
- Feelings of isolation: In order to cope with bullying, harassment, and other forms of mistreatment, gay and bisexual high school students may engage in sexual behaviors that increase their chances of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Ways to Learn More and Get Involved:
- Get tested for HIV and other STDs. Get treated as soon as possible in order to stay healthy.
- Seek out information from the CDC, Advocates for Youth, Greater Than AIDS, and other organizations working on this issue.
- Attend HRC’s 4th annual Time to THRIVE conference for youth-serving professionals.
- Listen to and share the stories of youth living with and affected by HIV.
- Use one or more prevention strategies to maintain your sexual health and your partner’s.
HRC is committed to working with our allies, partners, members, and supporters to end the dual epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigma. Click here to learn more, and join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #NYHAAD & #STDMonth17.