Every month 1,000 young people contract HIV.
That's 12,000 young people, ages 13-24 who contract HIV every year. Wow. Just to put it in perspective, youth only make up 21% of the U.S. population but account for 39% of all new HIV infections. What’s more is that young men who have sex with men (MSM), especially young men of color, are at an increased risk for HIV infection. In 2009, young MSM accounted for 27% of new HIV infections in the U.S.
What accounts for the disproportionate risk and what are GSA youth doing about it?
For starters, we know LGBTQ need comprehensive sex education in their schools, but many sex ed classes focuses solely on heterosexual prevention methods or abstinence only, leaving out education on how LGBTQ youth can stay safe. What’s more is the all to real connection between race, class, gender, and sexuality, leaving many queer, low-income youth of color without access to adequate resources such as condoms, latex gloves, testing clinics, and health services. The combination of lack of comprehensive education and ample resources highlights how our schools and communities are not meeting the needs of America’s youth.
But GSAs are fighting back!
Advocates for Youth, in partnership with several amazing sexual health organizations across the country have teamed up for the first ever National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) taking place on April 10 to raise awareness about HIV’s impact on our nation’s youth. We encourage GSA Networks and individual GSA clubs across the country to get involved, fight back and fight AIDS! Here are some ways your GSA can raise awareness about NYHAAD:
- Encourage all GSA members and all youth to get tested and know their status. Arrange for a mobile clinic to visit your school or take a trip together to a local health clinic. The number one way to protect yourself and your partners is to get tested frequently and to know your status. Visit our Sexual Health page for resources on how to find a HIV testing site near you.
- Get educated on the issues. Know how HIV affects your communities. Visit www.gsanetwork.org/sexualhealth to check out sexual health resources so you can better advocate for yourself and those around you. You can discuss these resources in your GSA meetings and even plan a movie night to watch documentaries about LGBTQ AIDS activism. We recommend How to Survive a Plague and United in Anger.
- Plan a Day of Action. Use NYHAAD as an opportunity to promote HIV awareness by planning a full day of action. Some ideas for tactics include: holding a press conference, using social media to put out stats and HIV awareness messages, bringing a sexual health resource fair to your school, asking your teachers and administrators to get tested at school, launching a comprehensive sex ed campaign, and much more. A coalition of providers in LA created this awesome toolkit with signs and social media ideas that your GSA can download and use for free. Have a look at some of the GSA Network Northern California Youth Council photos at the bottom of this blog for social media ideas. Use your creative minds to move your school to action!
- Keep on fighting. Don’t let April 10 be the only day your GSA discusses HIV/AIDS. 12,000 new youth HIV infections a year won’t go away with one day of awareness and action, though it can certainly be part of your GSAs long-term strategy to raise awareness about sexual health at your school or district. Demand justice for youth, keep up the activism, and fight AIDS!