Celebrating National Youth and HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Florida Mwesiga | April 10, 2014

EGPAF Foundation Ambassador Florida Mwesiga is a vocal advocate for youth HIV/AIDS awareness.

Florida Mwesiga

In celebration of National Youth and HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) Ambassador Florida Mwesiga encourages teens to take ownership of their health and get tested for HIV.

So, I’ve got a question for you, and I’m going to be honest with you if you’re straight with me. Okay?

How much do you know about HIV and AIDS? A little, a lot, or not much at all?

I bet the honest answer is the last one – not much at all – and seriously, that’s scary.

HIV/AIDS is real, it’s not a joke and it’s affecting teens around the world.

Young people make up almost 42 percent of new HIV infections. What’s really scary is that the majority of teens living with HIV don’t even know it

Today’s teenagers are a part of the largest generation of adolescents and young people ever recorded. There are more than 1.6 billion of us, and we’re growing up in a fast-paced, dynamic and interconnected world.

In the ideal version of that world, we would all be sitting at home, doing our homework at night, and watching sitcoms on TV. I’m a 16-year-old in 2014 – I hang out, I take #selfies, I go to parties, and I like to have fun.

But somewhere there is a girl, just like me – who likes to hang out, and likes to have fun – only she is living with HIV. For her, and the millions of other teens living with this virus, simply living to see another birthday is a miracle.

I could have been that girl.

My mother is HIV-positive, but I am HIV-free thanks to the steps she took when she was pregnant with me to make sure that I didn’t have to grow up living with the virus that has dominated her life.

Not everyone is as fortunate.

Today (April 10) is National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and in the spirit of honesty, I’m starting a new trending topic. Let’s talk about HIV and AIDS. Let’s be honest with each other about how you can contract the virus. Don’t know anything about HIV? Great! Learn about it.

I’m 16 and I have my whole life ahead of me.  I want to be there to live it on my terms and I can’t afford for something like HIV to hold me back.

Neither can you.