April 09, 2015

Congresswoman Lee Marks National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Oakland, CA – Each year, on April 10th, Congress marks National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This year’s theme is “Engaging Youth Voices in the Response to HIV & AIDS.”

“National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an important way to increase awareness about HIV and its impact on young people in this country,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 10,000 young people (13-24) were diagnosed with HIV in 2013, representing more than 20 percent of newly diagnosed cases that year.

Tragically, the CDC estimates that more than half of young people living with HIV do not know that they have the virus.

A major issue driving these statistics is a lack of awareness about HIV.  The percentage of health education classes teaching students about HIV is down to 85 percent. This means that more than 15 percent of U.S. health classes do not cover HIV, according to the CDC.

In order to increase awareness about HIV, testing and methods of protecting oneself, Congresswoman Lee has introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (H.R. 1706).

“Our young people deserve comprehensive and evidence-based sex education so they can make healthy decisions and have healthy relationships,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“As a pediatrician and adolescent medicine doctor, I provide care for youth living with HIV. Far too many youth are not receiving appropriate comprehensive sex education, getting regularly tested for HIV, or receiving the support and resources they need if they receive an HIV positive diagnosis. We can and must do better,” said Dr. Nadia Dowshen, Director of Adolescent HIV Services at the Craig-Dulcimer Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

To realize the goal of an AIDS-free generation, many young people are working within their communities to promote awareness about the virus.

“I'm a youth activist because of the outrageous HIV rate of infection among young same-gender loving men of color. National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day is one more step in helping young individuals use their voice in speaking up for comprehensive sex education and empowering them to take charge of their sexual health,” said Brandon King (Birmingham, AL), NYHAAD Youth Ambassador.

“If we are to get to an “AIDS-free” generation, we must revamp how we educate young people on how to have a healthy sex life. This doesn't mean pushing scare tactics and only talking about abstinence. Instead, we need to get real, have in-depth conversations on the benefits and risks activity, and be inclusive of all youth. We need to listen to young people, we have the answers,” said Anndrekia Maha (Marietta, GA), NYHAAD Youth Ambassador.

“As we mark National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I have one message for our young people: Take your health in your hands. Get tested, know your status and get treatment if necessary,” added Congresswoman Lee.

On Monday, Congresswoman Lee hosted a press call with Dr. Dowshen, Miss Maha and Mr. King. For an audio recording of the call, please connect with James Lewis at james.c.lewis@mail.house.gov.


Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.