Commentary Sexual Health

Protect Yourself: National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

Hannah Green

April 10 is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, the first awareness day to recognize the impact of the AIDS epidemic specifically on teens and young adults.

Published in partnership with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).

See all of our coverage of STD Awareness Month 2013 here and our coverage of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day here.

April 10 is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), the first awareness day to recognize the impact of the AIDS epidemic specifically on teens and young adults. Young people today have never known a world without HIV. Yet new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that one in four new HIV infections occur among youth ages 13 to 24, and half of all new sexually transmitted disease (STD) cases each year are among youth. NYHAAD, which falls in the middle of STD Awareness Month, is a great way for young people to participate in STD prevention and awareness, including related to HIV.

The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is pleased to be a founding partner of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. We at NCSD know that adolescents need to be a major focus of our HIV and other STD prevention initiatives, as profound and persistent health inequities continue to affect young people’s sexual health. We know that including young people in the promotion of sexual health is critical to preventing STDs and HIV, and young people are stepping into their role as empowered sexual health advocates like never before. Youth around the country are planning community events, organizing free HIV and STD testing, and working with their peers to raise the profile of sexual health issues.

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National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day works within STD Awareness Month to encourage young people to play a role in preventing STDs.

With the support of their communities, this month we hope young people make it a priority to:

  • Get tested. Most young people are not getting tested for HIV and STDs, making it more likely for them to transmit the virus to others.

  • Be bold. If you choose to be sexually active, use a condom every time. And don’t wait for your doctor to ask you about getting tested—just ask!

  • Speak up. Talk to your partner, your doctor, your friends, and yes, even your parents, about HIV and STDs. Speaking up breaks down stigma and makes sexual health easier to talk about. Contact your local school board and let its members know that you and your fellow students deserve medically accurate information about sexual health and disease prevention. Write to your elected officials and let them know that HIV impacts young voters like never before.

While the factors that put each of us at risk for HIV and STDs are complicated, we need young people to speak up about what matters most when it comes to sexual health. Ona Wang, Youth Ambassador for Advocates for Youth, says:

“What we want in the creation of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day is for everyone—governments, our schools, our community leaders, our parents, our friends—to truly commit to protecting young people from HIV and AIDS. That means providing us with the right information, access to services, and support. Young people will lead the way, if you stand with us.”

Youth leadership and youth ownership over sexual health issues like STD and HIV prevention is more important than ever if we want to make a difference in our community’s health. Join us in making National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day a lasting resource, tribute, and day of participation for young people.

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