Tomorrow, April 10th, 2013, marks the first National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) – a day to educate the public about the impact of HIV & AIDS on young people, as well as highlight the amazing work of young people in response to the epidemic. Through their efforts, youth and their allies will hold our leaders accountable for their commitment to and investment in realizing an AIDS-free generation.
In the United States, one in four new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 and every month, 1,000 young people acquire HIV. And in 2010, 60 percent of young people’s HIV infection was undiagnosed. This is a call to action. We need an all-hands-on-deck response from communities, schools, governments, and organizations – as well as the recognition of young people as key partners in the HIV & AIDS movement. Youth involvement is critical to reach an AIDS-free generation.
To prepare for NYHAAD, Advocates for Youth and our Founding Partners built on our experiences with the power of youth activism, tapped into our networks, and recruited Youth Ambassadors to shape this day and inform the necessary work moving forward. The Youth Ambassadors shared their experiences of how young people are uniquely impacted by HIV; the barriers they face in HIV prevention, testing, and care; and how best to translate these experiences into action for an AIDS-free generation. We harnessed their expertise in all aspects of the day: from designing the logo, to developing content for the website, as well as planning their own events and sample activities for other young people. On April 10, 2013, and beyond, the NYHAAD Youth Ambassadors will be on the ground educating their peers and communities by hosting events, distributing condoms, speaking with the press, encouraging counseling and testing, and using new media to support NYHAAD.
Young people operate in many social media spaces and are generally early adopters of the newest ways to communicate with friends and family. Young people are not just vehicles for sharing information – they are essential in shifting norms, attitudes, and beliefs across the country. For this reason, NYHAAD accounts were created on Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest , and Instagram to reach young people where they are already. In addition, youth-friendly content, such as the NYHAAD infographics , was also created based on input from the Youth Ambassadors.
NYHAAD Youth Ambassadors and other youth activists from Advocates for Youth will lead the NYHAAD Twitter chat on Wednesday April 10 at 2:00PM EST. We invite you to join this conversation. Also joining us will be Miss America 2010 Carissa Cameron and other young people from across the country. Follow the conversation with the Twitter handle @youthaidsday and with the hashtag #NYHAAD.
NYHAAD serves as a wake-up call to remind us that we cannot achieve an AIDS-free generation unless we engage young people where they are and acknowledge that young people have the right to be included in the conversation; that they deserve respect for the role they play in ending the epidemic; and that the government and our society have the responsibility to ensure that all young people are provided with the tools they need to safeguard their overall health. Each one of us has the responsibility to take action and invest in young people – their health, their education, and their leadership!