An HIV-Free Generation Starts with Our Youth: How to Educate Our Youth in Order to End the Epidemic

By Maya Perry April 10, 2017

I am 21 years old and part of a generation that does not know a world without HIV and AIDS. So today, the fifth annual observance of National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), I want to inform my generation, as well as generations before me, on ways to educate the youth, so they are making safe and healthy decisions about their sexual behaviors. Young people are our future, therefore, in order to raise up a generation that is free of HIV, it is important that we educate and engage them about the topic.

Education about HIV starts in the home and classroom. Unfortunately, many parents and schools are hesitant to teach sexual health to children. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014, less than half of all high schools and only a fifth of middle schools in the country taught the basics of sexual education. However, educating young people about sex and HIV is essential since they are highly affected by the HIV epidemic. CDC studies show that one in four new HIV infections are among young people ages 13 to 24. According to Advocates for Youth, 50% of millennials say they want to learn more about HIV. With this in mind, try to become more confident in starting the conversation.

When educating the youth about HIV, teaching them how it is transmitted is a good place to start. It is our duty to inform them how HIV is and is not transmitted and to debunk misconceptions. They should also learn the importance of getting tested regularly and having access to medication needed to prevent HIV, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). According to Advocates for Youth, only 23% of sexually active high school students have been tested for HIV. In order to raise this percentage, young people need to understand that knowing their HIV status is crucial in preventing the transmission of HIV.

It is imperative that we educate our youth about how to improve health outcomes for those who are infected with HIV. CDC studies show that while every month 1,000 young people are infected with HIV and over 76,400 young people are currently living with HIV across the country, only 13% are receiving the treatment they need to suppress the virus. We must teach our young people how to gain access to affordable HIV care and treatment.

Stigma hinders people from having open discussions about HIV, including youth. That is why breaking the stigma is mandatory. All youth deserve the right to know how they can make safe and healthy choices. So on this day, and every day after, make a commitment to raise awareness about HIV with our youth so we can all become closer to ending the epidemic.

To learn more about National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, visit NYHAAD.advocatesforyouth.org.