2020 National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today, April 10, is the eighth annual observation of National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD). This day is dedicated to educating the public about the impact HIV has on young people and the resources that are available to reduce new HIV infections and link youth living with HIV to care and treatment. Today’s youth are the first generation who have not known a world without HIV. CDC studies show in 2017, youth aged 13 to 24 years old made up 21% of the new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. and youth who are living with HIV are the least likely age group to be linked to care in a timely manner and achieve a suppressed viral load. In order to end the HIV epidemic, it is imperative that we provide young people with the necessary HIV information, education, prevention, care, and treatment resources.

Health departments all over the country are creating Ending the HIV Epidemic (EtHE) plans for their jurisdictions. Including youth-centered HIV prevention and linkage programs in these plans, can have a positive impact on youth living with HIV in these jurisdictions. NASTAD’s Success Stories map highlights the important work of health department HIV and viral hepatitis programs. Some of these success stories include health departments and community-based organizations (CBOs) that implement programs focused on educating the youth about HIV prevention and treatment services. For example, Alabama and Tennessee both launched programs that  prioritized young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBM). Both programs used social media as a tool to reach and educate this specific youth population. Programs like these are important because it allows health departments and CBOs to research where the majority of youth obtain information and meet them where they are.

Studies show people living with HIV in the U.S. now have a near-normal life expectancy due to current HIV medication and treatment that allows people to achieve viral suppression, and many people aged 13 to 24 years old who are living with HIV are resilient, thriving, and living full lives with their HIV diagnoses. It is imperative that we refer, link, engage, and retain all youth in HIV care and treatment in order for them to achieve viral suppression. A JAIDS study shows, among all age groups, the youth has the lowest HIV continuum of care (HCC) outcomes. In this study, viral suppression was more likely among youth aged 13 to 24 years old who were living with HIV when they were quickly linked to care and had less time between HIV testing and referral to a linkage coordinator. More youth-focused care and treatment services are urgently needed in order to improve HCC outcomes, which is why it is crucial for health departments to create EtHE plans that prioritize the youth and provide them with these services.

NASTAD’s work includes providing tools and resources that assist in the public health response to HIV. Below are NASTAD resources that educate and increase awareness around the importance of youth-centered HIV education, prevention, and linkage to care services:

To learn more about NYHAAD, visit https://advocatesforyouth.org/nyhaad/.