For today’s generation of LGBTQ youth, the temporal removal from the AIDS epidemic means its looming presence has mostly dissipated from our consciousness.

National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day combats this silence and aims to facilitate a national conversation about the impact HIV/AIDS has on young people.

HIV/AIDS was introduced to me in high school sex ed along with other STIs to watch out for, but its social significance and its impact on the LGBTQ community was left unmentioned. It took my own research and the guidance of older queer people to learn about this dark time and its lasting effects on my community. Since I started learning about the AIDS epidemic, I have realized that it is not just an STD, but a complex social issue that intersects with race, class, gender, and sexuality. The story of AIDS is the story of queer people from different communities that united for justice, and, against tremendous silencing hate, demanded to be heard. Learning the history of AIDS activism has been an essential part of building my own queer identity. It contextualizes my queerness in a long lineage of struggle and visibility, of resilience and survival.

National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day promises LGBTQ youth that our history matters, and that we deserve the right to education, preventative resources, treatment, and care. NYHAAD has created a “Bill of Rights” which outlines the changes needed to accomplish the dream of an “AIDS-free generation.” More importantly, NYHAAD brings to light an important conversation that all youth should be having about their safety and health.

The fight against AIDS is far from over, and educating youth will be one of the most important prevention strategies as the effort continues. According to NYHAAD’s website, “every month 1,000 young people are infected with HIV and over 76,400 young people are currently living with HIV across the country.” HIV is not something we have left in the past. It is not something we can forget about. As these statistics show, it still presents a threat for youth, and especially queer, black, and brown youth.

You can observe NYHAAD by planning an event, or by simply vocalizing to your community the ongoing presence of HIV/AIDS among youth and educating others in how to find preventative resources and treatment. Providing condoms and education can go a long way in improving young people’s sexual practices. I am grateful for the adults in my life who have expressed concern for my safety and connected me with free-testing clinics and other sexual health resources.

So, go out and tell the youth in your life about NYHAAD! Let them know about places they can go to for safe sex resources! And remember that even though the struggle is far from over, our voices can make a huge impact in empowering youth and saving lives.

Be sure to check out the NYHAAD Bill of Rights: http://amplifyyourvoice.org/nyhaad

Sources
http://thoughtcatalog.com/brittany-brathwaite-kimberly-huggins/2015/04/you-should-join-the-national-conversation-about-aids-and-hiv-with-nyhaad/

https://aidsvu.org/state/illinois/chicago/

https://aidsvu.org/resources/national-youth-hivaids-awareness-day-2015/

 

Samuel Berston is 19 years old and a freshman at Northwestern University where he studies Human Development and Gender and Sexuality Studies. After college, he hopes to return to his hometown San Francisco and do non-profit work with the LGBTQ population.