By Simon Fisher
The need for a youth-focused and culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS educational platform is urgent. Despite growing infection rates, youth-centered prevention information created in an accessible, frank and affirming manner is lacking. In 2006, over one-third of new HIV cases in the U.S. were recorded in young people aged 13-29. In 2005, African-Americans and Latinos accounted for 84 percent of all new HIV infections among 13 to 19-year olds in the U.S., even though together they represent nationally only 32 percent of this age group.
Young people experience many barriers to HIV testing and, compared to other populations, are more likely not to get tested. A new youth-focused video called HIV: Hey, It’s Viral! attempts to tackle these issues head-on. Created by Beyondmedia Education in Chicago, the video and an accompanying curriculum address safer sex practices and youth activism.
The video shows young people what HIV is, how it is transmitted, and how it can be prevented, using the enhancements of a soundtrack and digital animation to illustrate the science of HIV/AIDS. The program is a component of “Condom Sense: A Real Life Education,” an educational sexual health program that engages students through theatre, media and conversation.
HIV: Hey, It’s Viral! emphasizes the bottom line about the virus: while anyone can get it, everyone can help prevent it. Even though the AIDS epidemic has been raging for over 20 years, young people today are still fed the same false information taught more than two decades ago. The video helps dispel myths, like “you can get HIV from kissing,” “two condoms work better than one,” or “only gay men can get HIV.”
Additionally, young people today are surrounded by information regarding HIV medication that sends a message that HIV is curable that it doesn’t matter if you get HIV because there are pills you can take to stay healthy. HIV: Hey, It’s Viral! features HIV-positive young people talking about the medical regiments they are on and shows that even though they feel well, they spend tremendous time and energy focusing on their health to do so.
Young people are often not given the tools to think about self-care and all that it entails, especially around issues of sex and sexuality. It is crucial for young people to feel empowered to make safe sexual choices, whether that be to practice sex safely, or to wait to have sex later in life. This video emphasizes that accurate, accessible information about HIV and HIV prevention gives youth the tools they need to make safe choices in their lives.
1 July 2009