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How to Become an AIDS Activist

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By , 18, Contributor Originally Published: November 28, 2006 Revised: November 28, 2012

In this crazy political climate, a lot of young people want to do something more about the issues that affect us and our futures. But we don’t always know how.

Take me, for example. While I have experience with other forms of activism, like comprehensive sex education and gay rights, I have no idea how to tackle many other issues.

HIV/AIDS activism is one. I’ve heard the statistics about the number of people our age who are infected with HIV/AIDS, and it burns me up. Hearing about the suffering of so many people my age really makes me want to get out and do something to prevent it.

So I finally decided to be like Nike and just do something. Are you also wondering how to get involved in HIV/AIDS activism? Well, hopefully, the five steps I outline below will help you find your activism wings. Then we can all be crusaders for this cause and change the world!

Step One: Just Know the Facts, Jack

Or Jill. Or whoever.

To be healthy, it’s important to learn the real info about HIV/AIDS. Knowledge is power, or so the saying goes. The Sexetc.org clinic finder provides the option to type in your zip code and discover where you can be tested. When I typed in my own zip code, nine results for test sites came up!

But let’s take it back a few steps. What is HIV/AIDS anyway?

HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It never goes away. People with HIV are less able to fight off infections or cancers. AIDS results when HIV weakens the immune system so that a person has trouble fighting off infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 about 26 percent of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS that year were between the ages of 13 and 24.

How do you get it? HIV is spread:

  • through sexual contact, specifically vaginal, anal and oral sex;
  • through direct contact with HIV-infected blood, which happens by sharing needles with an HIV-infected person, tattooing or body piercing with unclean needles, or by receiving a blood transfusion from an HIV-infected person;
  • from mother to baby.

HIV is not spread through saliva, tears, sweat, feces, urine, hugging, kissing, massage, shaking hands, insect bites, living near someone with HIV or sharing showers or toilets with someone who is HIV-positive.

Step Two: Protect Yourself

We’ve all probably heard those lame slogans (“Cap it before you tap it!” or “Wrap it up!” or, well, you get it), but—it’s true. Using protection during oral, vaginal or anal sex greatly reduces your chance of contracting HIV. Latex condoms are 98-percent effective in preventing HIV when they’re used correctly and on a regular basis. Get detailed instruction about how to use a condom. And remember: the only 100-percent effective way to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS is to not have oral, anal or vaginal sex.

Step Three: Spread the word

It’s so important to get out there and talk to people about HIV/AIDS, prevention methods and testing options, as well as debunk some of the common myths about HIV/AIDS. The easiest way to do this is to talk to your friends or the people you’re closest to. Ask them if they know how to prevent HIV and where to get tested. If they’re confused about something, use the new knowledge you’re gaining to fill in some gaps for them. If they have questions you don’t know have answers to, you now have plenty of resources to point them to.

Another great option is to bring Hope’s Voice, a group of HIV-positive young adults who talk truthfully about the disease, to your school. Find out more information about Hope’s Voice.

Step Four: Join an Organization or Start Your Own Group

Do a search online and you will find tons of reputable organizations that do great HIV/AIDS work around the world. TheBody.com has a very comprehensive resource section with organizations from across the country that you can support or join. And check out the Make a Difference section on Sexetc.org to find other ways to get involved.

You can also raise money for someone specific, or help a specific community, or start a group as a project of your religious or spiritual organization. Take a look around your community and be as creative and bold as you want to be about taking a stand and fighting HIV/AIDS.

Step Five: Vote

If you’re old enough to vote, voice your opinions at the voting booth. If you don’t already know, find out who is running for what office and see where they stand on HIV/AIDS prevention. If you’re not already registered, take a few minutes to register to vote! A great site for people our age to register is Rock the Vote, which also has information about the voting process and how to get involved with their organization on other issues.

The bottom line: Educate yourself. Educate others. Speak your mind. Get involved.

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