December 1, 2001
This year World AIDS Day focuses on the importance of reaching youth with vital messages about the need to protect themselves from contracting HIV/AIDS. The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is I Care . . . Do You? Youth and AIDS in the 21st Century.
HIV/AIDS is an pandemic that affects us all. An estimated 900,000 people in the United States are currently living with HIV or AIDS, and half of all new HIV infections are among young Americans under the age of 25. Every hour two more young Americans contract HIV. Why? Because too many of our young people are engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sexual activity and sharing needles for drug injecting. 65% of our US youth are sexually active by the 12th grade, many of those with multiple partners. Around the world, more than 36 million people are estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS today, and 9 out of 10 of them DO NOT KNOW they are infected!
We all have the power -- and the responsibility -- to make a difference. To stop the HIV/AIDS pandemic in our community, we must work together to promote safe sex, individual responsibility and tolerance toward those infected with HIV or AIDS. We appeal to our youth and those who influence them to educate themselves on how to prevent HIV infection and to help others learn how to prevent the spread of this devastating illness.