April 10 Is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

The following is a guest post by Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Director of Education Vicki Hadd-Wissler, M.A.

Young people born in the 1980s belong to the first generation to have never known a world without HIV and AIDS. The numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are alarming, with young people between the ages of 13 and 29 accounting for almost 40 percent of new HIV infections in the United States! In Arizona, people ages 25 to 29 had the highest infection rate (28.1 per 100,000), and people ages 20 to 24 come in second with 26.1 per 100,000. It is estimated that 13 percent of those infected with HIV (in all age groups) are unaware they are infected — and, among HIV-positive youth ages 18 to 24, an estimated 44 percent are unaware of their status.

Help the next generation know a world where AIDS no longer poses a threat to a vibrant, healthy future.

National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) on April 10 provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the importance of prevention, promote HIV testing, and help reduce the stigma often associated with HIV and STDs in general.

First organized in 2013 by Advocates for Youth, NYHAAD is intended to serve as an annual wake-up call to organize and educate young people about HIV and AIDS, and press leaders for investments in medical advancements and prevention strategies. The observance has received less attention nationally this year than in past years — no doubt due to the need to focus on saving the Affordable Care Act. But we can still be activists on the issue of HIV awareness. All of us have a young person(s) in our lives who we care deeply about. Let’s mark our calendars for April 10 as a day to commit to having a conversation with them to share important, life-enhancing information.

Conversation Starters

Check in with your young person and ask them if they know about the significance of April 10 and discuss the NYHAAD Bill of Rights.

Share your own story. If you were in high school or college in the 1980s, you likely remember the fear and homophobia fueled by government indifference to the pressing need to fund research into the disease — including finding treatments. Discuss with your young person that stigma surrounding testing and treatment is still prevalent, and that one way to diminish the stigma is normalizing the idea that everyone should know their HIV status.

If your young person is your son or daughter, make sure they know your family’s values around sexual activity. Brainstorm with your teen ways to talk with a romantic partner about delaying sex or about safer-sex activity.

Prevention Resources in Your Community

Check with your school district and find out if they provide HIV prevention education to students. In the late 1980s, Arizona schools were mandated to teach HIV and AIDS prevention education to students. This is no longer the case, and most schools in Arizona do not provide any sex education.

If available, enroll your child in an evidenced-based teen pregnancy prevention and HIV/STD prevention program that is offered at community sites. In Tucson, the Mobilization for Positive Futures Project, a partnership of Planned Parenthood Arizona, Child and Family Resources, and the Sunnyside Unified School District, focuses on teen pregnancy prevention and offers programs for both youth and parents. Two programs are available for teens: Making a Difference for middle school students will be offered June 5 and 6, and Reducing the Risk for high school students will be offered June 26-29. Visit the link above to learn more details about these classes and to register. You can also contact JBallesteros@cfraz.org. These programs will also be available this summer in the Phoenix metro area. To find out more about the schedule email education@ppaz.org.

Also, One*N*Ten, an organization dedicated to serving LGBTQ youth, offers Making Prideful Choices, an evidenced-based teen pregnancy prevention and HIV/STD prevention program. Contact Mike at Mike@onenten.org or call 602-400-4601. New classes are scheduled to start April 14.

Where to Go for Testing and Treatment

Encouraging youth (and all people) to know their HIV status is a first step in turning the tide to an AIDS-free generation. Only about 22 percent of sexually active high school students have been tested for HIV. Testing is widely available across the state, including at Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is for high-risk individuals who are currently HIV-negative, and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is available to people after potential exposure to HIV. These are two relatively recent prevention treatments. Planned Parenthood Arizona recently received funding to begin offering PrEP to patients in our health centers. Keep an eye on their Facebook page and website as this program develops.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital will be launching a Youth PrEP Access Project on April 10 in observance of NYHAAD. Also, a free testing event will be in Tucson sponsored by the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) on April 21 from 4-8 p.m. at La Pilita Museum 420 S. Main Avenue. Free food, plus arts and crafts, will also be a part of the event. Contact Michael Webb at mwebb@saaf.org for more information. Another good resource for information about PrEP and HIV testing statewide is this webpage at Aunt Rita’s Foundation.

National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

Make April 10 your day to help the next generation know a world where AIDS no longer poses a threat to a vibrant, healthy future.

Know your status! Visit your nearest Planned Parenthood to get tested, find other testing sites near you, or pick up a home-testing kit at a local drugstore. You can also visit Planned Parenthood for condoms and to get your questions answered about safer sex.