On National Youth HIV and AIDS Day, the Boston College ‘Troublemakers’ Speak

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Commentary Sexual Health

On National Youth HIV and AIDS Day, the Boston College ‘Troublemakers’ Speak

Lizzie Jekanowski

Our crime has made national news: We’re giving out condoms. At a Catholic University.

To commemorate the first annual National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, April 10, this blog is part of a series recognizing young people as key partners in the fight against HIV and AIDS and calls on leaders to fully invest in young people so we can reach an AIDS-free generation.

Published in partnership with Advocates for Youth.

See all our coverage of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day here.

Lately we’ve been having some trouble at school. Our grades are fine. We’re not vandalizing the campus. We’re not part of a cheating scandal. But our crime has made national news. You might have heard about it.

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We’re giving out condoms.

And we’re giving out information about how to use condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy.

At Boston College (BC), a Catholic university.

For this, we’ve been told by the dean that we’ll be disciplined if we don’t stop.

This is all happening just in time for Wednedsay’s National Youth HIV and AIDS Day (NYHAAD), a day when youth activists around the nation are gathering together to promote HIV testing, fight stigma, and hold our leaders accountable for helping create an AIDS-free generation. This is what we’re doing today: holding BC accountable.

BC promotes abstinence until marriage as the only acceptable means of protection from STIs and pregnancy. Abstinence is a great choice for individuals who choose it. But by age 19, 70 percent of people have already had sex, and 95 percent of people have sex before they are married. What about those students’ lives and futures? Doesn’t BC want everyone to have all the tools they need to be healthy and productive? Why would the college withhold vital information and supplies from its students, and instead promote silence and shame?

For people who are sexually active, condoms are highly effective at preventing HIV. It’s common sense that being able to get condoms nearby and for free makes students likelier to use them. That’s why the Great American Condom Campaign was founded: to make it easier for college students to get protection before they need it. That’s why, on this day dedicated to prioritizing young people in the fight against HIV and AIDS, we refuse to stop providing condoms on our campus.

Boston College is not alone in creating obstacles to ending the AIDS epidemic. Many campuses ban condom distribution. Many school districts don’t provide comprehensive information about contraception and condoms. Most college and high school students have never been tested for HIV. There is still a lot of work to be done to become a sexually healthy nation.

We do this work because we are dedicated to keeping our fellow students and their partners safer and healthier. We have the right to work to make our campus community healthier.

On NYHAAD, we’re standing with thousands of students around the country. We need to ensure access to safer sex materials, resources, and information. All of us need and have a right to comprehensive information and services, and a voice in decisions that affect us.

We’re leading the fight to get to an AIDS-free generation. We’re not backing down.

And, trouble or not, we’re still handing out condoms!