National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Prevention Begins with Me
“The future belongs to our youth.” — Nelson Mandela
The WHO estimates that over 30% of all new HIV infections globally occur among youth ages 15 to 25 years (WHO). Youth are at an elevated risk of contracting HIV in part because during this time, they are more likely to explore their sexuality when they aren’t aware of associated risks and effective methods in which they can protect themselves. To raise awareness about the impact of HIV on young people, National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) is observed each year on the 10th of April.
Young people in many countries, particularly in low income and disadvantaged populations, are still not able to access accurate and comprehensive sexual health education. Higher rates of education can improve the rates of condom use and voluntary HIV testing. Studies show that low attendance and higher school dropout rates correlated with higher incidences of HIV (Stoner et. al). But education extends far beyond the confines of a school environment. With the advancement of technology and a wealth of resources available online, young people can access health information at the click of a button. One of the most promising ways to combat HIV, is through the impact of peer-to-peer learning. There are other factors that limit the autonomy of young people and their ability to practice safe sex (such as the access to condoms), even where information is available.
In the recent past, we’ve seen the power of the youth steadily growing – their influence reaches far and wide. Social media movements, individual action, group protests and numerous petitions have changed the course of environmental, political, gender and human rights issues. This is a generation of action and passion. And that is precisely what will help to improve outcomes in the area of HIV.
In healthcare too, empowered youth can identify vulnerabilities in their local communities and act as powerful channels of information dissemination as well as solution-building. Creating safe spaces where discussions on sexual and reproductive health can take place will be vital to reducing the stigma around HIV. The voices of the youth are becoming increasingly important and influential in shaping policy, healthcare services and cultural and social systems.
With targeted and consistent action, TeachAids has been able to arm and mobilize global youth effort to fight HIV/AIDS. Here are a few pieces that highlight our work with partnerships over the years:
Through engaging conversations, raising funds, acting as advocates, creating access to information and in numerous other innovative ways, young people can drive transformative change. Please take initiative, be informed and commit to ensuring that none of your peers are left to navigate these critical years alone – that’s a challenge we invite young people to embark on today!