National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day: Young People Take the Lead on HIV and Sexual Health Activism
Written by Karli Santos, MSWc, SYPP Center
April 10, 2016 will mark the third annual National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD). NYHAAD is about educating the public on the ways in which HIV and AIDS impacts young people. This day is also about honoring the hard work and advocacy being done nationally by young people committed to creating an HIV and AIDS-free generation.
Right now there are around 76,400 young people who are living with HIV across the nation and nearly 1,000 new HIV cases occurring every month. Unfortunately, about 50 percent of young people living with HIV have not been diagnosed yet and are not aware they have HIV. Only 13 percent of young people are receiving enough medication to suppress the virus, which is the lowest percentage for any age group of people living with HIV. HIV disproportionately affects youth of color with around 80 percent of new cases occurring between the ages of 13 to 24.
Poverty, homelessness and lack of economic opportunity are some barriers that make it extremely difficult for youth to access services. Without family support, stable housing and employment, young people living with HIV face an increasingly arduous challenge of accessing the necessary health care services to maintain their wellness and treatment of HIV. Young people deserve access to comprehensive sexual health education and free or low cost preventative services. NYHAAD is creating the stepping-stone toward decreasing the stigma around HIV, which can create a barrier for young people to get tested and treated. The NYHAAD’s goal is to have professionals in the community at schools and social service settings that will normalize conversations about sexual health and have better knowledge and awareness of youth HIV as a way to create an environment where young people living with HIV could feel comfortable and safe seeking necessary healthcare services.
Events commemorating NYHAAD are happening all across the nation on April 10th. Here in Los Angeles, CHLA, as part of a local network of other HIV service providers called Los Angeles Integrated Center for Care and Support Services (LAICCSS), will be organizing several NYHAAD events. A fun, Pokémon themed event that will be taking place at Bienestar in East Hollywood called, “Poké-Fest”, is designed and organized in partnership with youth to raise awareness, decrease stigma and educate other young people and the community about sexual health, HIV and AIDS. Other NYHAAD events include “Spring into Love”, a sexual health youth conference and “Positive Transformations”, an event that uses an art-centered approach to raise awareness around HIV and sexual health issues.
Thomas Davis, a health education specialist at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and an organizer for the "Positive Transformations" event, shares his take on NYHAAD:
“An event like “Positive Transformations” takes a different approach and focuses on the use of art to tell stories and educate people. It is inspiring to see young people take the lead on this day, and this month, and begin creating their own unique ways of engaging the community around these issues.”
If you would like to learn more about NYHAAD and events near you visit: