Today’s young people are the first generation that has never known a world without HIV and AIDS. In the United States, about 50,000 people are infected with HIV each year, and one in four of those infected are young people ages 13 to 24. Despite these challenges, young people and their allies are determined to end this pandemic once and for all. To facilitate this commitment, National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) was created. NYHAAD is a nationwide observance on April 10 that calls on people to take action and invest in young people – their health, their education, and their leadership.
As two young women of color born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, we have witnessed the devastating impact that HIV has had globally, within our communities and in our families. From the death of a family member to AIDS in 2010 to learning about HIV by wandering aimlessly into a mobile testing unit for a free metrocard, we quickly realized that though we are 3 decades from the inception of HIV in public consciousness, theres still a gap in HIV prevention and education. This inspired an unwavering dedication to ending the pandemic through sexual health education, community mobilization, advocacy and empowerment. When we entered college, HIV/AIDS was one of the leading causes of death for young Black women in the United States. While studying at Syracuse University, we began our life-long commitment while working with Sex S.Y.M.B.A.L.S. (Sexually conscious, youthful, mature, black and latino students), which is a student-run organization committed to curtailing the spread of HIV and STDS, preventing sexual violence and promoting healthy sexual decisions. It was through this experience that we realized our passions and discovered our niche. This dedication has in turn translated into Public Health, Social Work and Human Sexuality graduate studies, adolescent health education, feminist youth work and reproductive justice advocacy. Through these efforts and commitments, we are holding ourselves accountable and actively being agents of change in our community.
The observance of NYHAAD with the adaption of a local proclamation in Brooklyn, NY allows us to bring a greater sense of awareness about the impact that HIV/AIDS has on our communities and our generation. Particularly, New York City is the epicenter of the HIV pandemic in the United States while Brooklyn, NY leads the city in new HIV cases annually. It is our firm belief that through communication, community involvement, education and awareness, we can begin to eliminate stigma and reverse the trend that HIV has had in our community. It is our hope that from this day forward, Brooklynites and New Yorkers alike will join together and continue this crucial conversation and commitment to work towards an AIDS-free generation.
Today, we charge you with the mission to be apart of this movement! Get tested! Always use condoms during sexual activity! Engage youth in honest and supportive conversations regarding their sexual health. Educate yourself on HIV and most importantly, share that information with your family and friends! Join us in the national conversation around NYHAAD by using the hashtag #NYHAAD on April 10! We hope to see you tuned in!
To learn more about the day, please visit Youthaidsday.org.