The National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) held each year on April 10 is dedicated to raising awareness of the fact that many youth are impacted by the HIV epidemic. According to an HIV surveillance report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2016, nearly a quarter of all new HIV diagnosis are among those aged 13 to 24. As we address a generation that has only ever known a world with HIV and AIDS, it is essential that we do not let the urgency of the epidemic slip.
The topic of youth and HIV is especially relevant in our communities as youths of color face higher risk of new infection than others. In fact, the number of African-Americans aged 13 – 24 living with HIV is twelve times higher than white youths of the same age, and more new infections were found among African- American males than in any other youth group by race, ethnicity, and gender in 2016. This is truly unacceptable. And social determinants of health, including poverty, lack of access to resources and care, social support, and stigma, among other determinants, are driving new infections in our youth.
For this reason, we are encouraging faith leaders across the country to participate in the conversation around HIV with their congregations, especially younger members. Knowledge is power in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and it is important that we address it and talk about the risks associated with HIV in our churches before youth are faced with decisions that could impact their health.
Faith leaders have the unique power to tap into the African-American community to not only educate and inspire action in the fight against HIV, but also to lead youth spiritually.
Let us look to the word of God as we work to reinforce the downward trend of HIV through generations. We implore faith leaders to get involved by taking simple action, including:
- Learning about HIV in your community by exploring org, an interactive mapping tool that visualizes the HIV epidemic.
- Educating youth from the pulpit on the HIV epidemic by preaching about it as a social justice issue.
- Incorporating HIV discussion into church sermons.
- Making HIV information easily accessible at church and promoting testing through direct service or with partnership through a local community health service organization.
The HIV epidemic is a battle we can fight together using our faith and education. We implore you to join us in our mission to eliminate HIV from the African-American community. For more information on how you can join us in this mission, visit our website.
Pastor William Francis is Lead Servant at Atlanta Faith in Action, The AFIA Center, where they are transforming Ministry, Minds, Lives and Souls in order to change the Communities and World in which we live. Pastor William can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.