National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day: The realities of our lives

From the HRC blog

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caused a media firestorm when it announced that Black men who have sex with men in the United States now have a 50 percent chance of being diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

Youth and HIVBut for us, this is not some abstract statistic. It is the reality of our lives. And it is not the whole story either. Often lost in mainstream coverage of HIV are the ways stigma and discrimination put young people like us at increased risk for HIV – while also limiting our ability to get tested or seek treatment.

How can we take steps to reduce the spread of HIV if our schools failed to offer comprehensive sex education? How could we be expected to take advantage of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – the once-daily pill regimen that can prevent HIV – if there were no providers in our communities willing to prescribe it? How could we be expected to adhere to our medication and reach an undetectable viral load if we were constantly worried about where were going to put our heads at night? Or, what food we were going to eat? These are the questions young people are grappling with as we continue to make-up more than 25 percent of all new HIV transmissions in the U.S. These are the questions that demand answers.

But rather than scaring young people into submission with reminders of how terrible things used to be, we should be empowering them to make smarter, healthier choices. Young people don’t need to be shielded from the truth about HIV and AIDS. What we need is love, compassion, and mentorship from the people around us. What we need are laws and policies that affirm all of who we are. Only then will an “AIDS-free generation” ever truly be in sight.

Continue reading on the HRC blog.

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