LOS ANGELES--(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed new findings in October that showed one in three new HIV diagnoses are of young people between the ages of 13-24. As the first generation unfortunate enough to never know a world free of HIV/AIDS – and the first generation fortunate enough to never know an HIV-positive diagnosis as an immediate death sentence – youths facing the present-day battle against HIV/AIDS have a different perception of the disease that can create obstacles that endanger their health by keeping them from responsible care and prevention.)--To support their recommendation that all people between the ages of 13-64 be tested for HIV routinely, the
“HIV/AIDS is drastically impacting the youngest members of our society, people who were born just as the sense of urgency we all felt about fighting the epidemic in the 80s and 90s was beginning to ease with the improving medical technology that now saves lives all around the world”
Today’s youth were born into a world where HIV is both highly prevalent and easily managed through medical treatment, which in many fosters the notions that HIV “just happens,” and that if a young person does one day test HIV-positive, they will just be able to get treatment. This leads to a relaxed attitude about avoiding contracting the virus in the first place, a devastating blow to proactive prevention like condom use and open conversations about sexual histories between partners.
Adding to this altered perception of HIV/AIDS is the baseless HIV stigma that is generated societally through misconceptions about the facts surrounding HIV/AIDS. Many believe the myth that HIV can be spread by simple hugging and kissing, which fosters unwarranted fear or hatred – and ultimately cruel discrimination – of people living with HIV. Terrified of being stigmatized, youths often avoid getting tested just to avoid the possibility of receiving a positive diagnosis. Avoiding testing leads to late diagnosis, which could make treatment less effective.
Responding to the rising youth HIV rate, a multitude of organizations – including AHF’s Keep The Promise campaign, Advocates for Youth, and MTV in collaboration with Lifebeat – are seeking to remind young people of their important place in the fight against the pandemic. These organizations are supporting a petition to President Barack Obama, Congress, and the Department of Health and Human Services to officially designate April 10th as National Youth HIV/AIDS Day.
The petition, which was authored by Advocates for Youth with support from MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation – an affiliate of Lifebeat, a 20-year-old national HIV/AIDS nonprofit that targets youth through messages linked to music – is currently accessible online, and as 2012 draws to a close it already has over 8,000 signatures.
“HIV/AIDS is drastically impacting the youngest members of our society, people who were born just as the sense of urgency we all felt about fighting the epidemic in the 80s and 90s was beginning to ease with the improving medical technology that now saves lives all around the world,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AHF. “As we all rejoice in these advancements, it is still crucial for us to remind young people around the world that the fight against HIV is not over, and they must actively protect themselves and their lovers by using protection and getting tested, as well as support other young people who are living with HIV by ending HIV stigma.”
To philosophically and financially support the petition, Staying Alive and Lifebeat are unveiling an interactive art exhibit in New York City on January 17th called the Arches of Hope. The exhibit is comprised of three stone arches—representing the three decades that the world has been fighting HIV/AIDS – made of 223 white blocks that will have an LED ticker tape embedded among them to display messages of hope that supporters who “adopt” blocks can write.
The Arches of Hope will be on display at The Out, 510 W 42nd Street in New York City, beginning on January 17th. Adopt a block and sign the petition for National Youth HIV/AIDS Day at www.archesofhope.com.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the USA. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 183,000 individuals in 28 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org.