SARASOTA – Education about prevention and treatment can help save lives when it comes to HIV and AIDS, and on National Youth HIV and AIDS awareness day local groups are spreading that message to young adults.
Middle Schooler Lily Zuber says the only time HIV comes up at school is at the end of a punchline.
“The kids at my school,” Zuber said. “They usually just make fun of it, and kind of just laugh it off like it’s nothing, or like it’s not a big deal, like it’s never going to happen to them.”
But HIV among youth is no joke, according to the CDC young people ages 13-24 account for one in five new HIV infections, and only 10% of US high schoolers have ever been tested.
“It’s alarming for every youth that comes to this center,” Nathan Bruemmer said. “Or every youth that we engage in our outreach efforts, we need them to be aware of something that is unfortunately all too common in Florida.”
ALSO Youth Executive Director Nathan Bruemmer says many young adults aren’t getting safe sex and prevention education early enough.
“It’s very important that weave in those lessons consistently, and constantly,” Bruemmer said. “Not just once a year when we have a speaker come in and talk to a class. Prevention and Education doesn’t just happen one time.”
Lily Zuber says it’s not just the kids that still have a lot to learn.
“We could teach adults to try to be more open with their kids,” Zuber said. “And try to connect more, because I get that parents just kind of want to shield their kids away from everything bad in the world, but that’s not how the world works.”
“Parents all want their kids to be happy and healthy,” Bruemmer said. “And we’ve got to have the hard conversations that’s our jobs as parents, and as tough as it is, we’ve just got to get over it and we’ve got to talk to them.”
Bruemmer says young adults need to know how they can be safe, and free options available for them to get care.
“Silence is deadly,” Bruemmer said. “And there is nothing truer when it comes to HIV prevention; we have to talk about it. We can prevent this. All we have to do is educate our youth and we can turn the tide.”
For more information on treatment and prevention or advice on how to talk to your kids about these difficult topics, visit these local organizations: