This post is 3 of 4 in Women with a Vision’s series on HIV/AIDS in honor of the 21st annual AIDS Education Month, developed by Philadelphia FIGHT!
GRAPHIC FROM 2012
Across the country, strides have been made in HIV prevention and education since the illness reached public consciousness roughly 35 years ago. Young people today do not know a world without HIV/AIDS, and people under the age of 20 have grown up in a world where HIV was treatable and no longer a death sentence the way their parents generation may have conceived of it. They have benefitted from increased knowledge of the disease, advancements in medicine and improved understanding of HIV/AIDS transmission prevention. Despite this, youth ages 13-24 see the highest rates of HIV transmission, with the numbers only getting higher (this is especially troubling when you consider that HIV diagnosis rates are decreasing for older age groups). Between 2007-2010, men who have sex with men (MSM), Black, and Latin@ teens experienced the highest percentage increases in HIV diagnoses.
In Louisiana, 25% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2011 were to youth under the age of 24 (71% of those diagnoses were in youth aged 20-24). Trends show that many youth do not seek out HIV testing until symptoms become present, emphasizing the need for early testing opportunities and education that lessens risky sexual behaviors. The rising rates of HIV infection in youth speak to the necessity of medically accurate, thorough, and comprehensive sex education for adolescents that are relevant to LGBTQIA+ youth. As it stands right now in Louisiana, no individual school is required to provide sex education, with Orleans Parish being the only district that permits sexual education before 7th grade. In Louisiana whatever sexual education is provided is forbidden to “utilize any sexually explicit materials depicting male or female homosexual activity”, must emphasize abstinence between unmarried persons, and “shall [not] in any way counsel or advocate abortion.” Contraception in any form is not allowed to be distributed in schools and with no federal mandate in place, the decision to provide sexual education in any form is left up to state legislatures. However, states like Louisiana with the most restrictive sexual education policies also have some of the highest STD rates among young people.
For more information on how to get involved to end HIV/AIDS among young people, visit The National Resource Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Adolescents. This resource provides reference information, access to funding opportunities, campaign planning materials, and even technical support and blog templates for organizers and activists who want to do HIV prevention work. Check back next week for the next post in the WWAV AIDS Month series!