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Protecting a New Generation from AIDS


The AIDS epidemic is quickly becoming a crisis of America's youth. Today, half of the 40,000 new HIV infections each year are among people under 25.

The advent of new protease drugs in the mid-1990s ended the automatic death sentence previously associated with an HIV diagnosis. But the new AIDS drugs that gave the gift of prolonged life have also resulted in a misperception of "cure," "end" and "over."

While America's investment in AIDS care and research is paying off through lower death rates, our divestment from HIV prevention is creating a new epidemic for a new generation of Americans.

At the same time, risky behavior has increased and, consequently, so have HIV infections. Equally disturbing, during the same period that infections have increased, there have been no new national investments in prevention.

There is no national voice contradicting some members of a new generation of sexually active young people who think having HIV means simply taking a few pills each day.

At the same time President Clinton calls for an intensive effort to find a medical vaccine for HIV, national support for HIV prevention is stagnant. In fact, the last ambitious national prevention effort occurred in the mid-1980s, when many of today's sexually active young people were too young to even read.

We have to stop this new epidemic so that AIDS doesn't ravage a new generation of Americans the way it did the last generation.

We need targeted prevention efforts that are effective at reaching the diversity of communities and people at risk for HIV and AIDS.

From the streets of Harlem to the barrios of Los Angeles, our nation's AIDS leaders all agree that, until there's a cure, prevention is our only vaccine.

Reinvigorating national HIV prevention is not only a moral imperative, but also a political one. Prevention is the one issue that generates the most support for a strengthened national fight against AIDS.

Americans Strongly Support
Sex Education to Fight AIDS

Americans were presented with two arguments about sex education:

  • Supporters of sex education say that at a time when young people are being exposed to a lot of misinformation about sex, it's important that they are able to get accurate scientific information about sex and issues that involve their health such as drugs, pregnancy, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Opponents say that sex education should be done in the home in accordance with the parents' own values, and not in schools where it may encourage children's curiosity and experimentation.

Americans who said supporters were more convincing: 55%

Americans who said opponents were more convincing: 27%

Other: 18%

Voices of the American People

    "They show some person just standing there with a black screen behind them going 'Have Safe Sex.' Kids don't watch it. They're not doing commercials that are catching the eyes of teenagers."

-- White Milwaukee woman

    "I think a lot of them think they're going to live forever. I mean you're 16 -- you don't think of mortality."

-- Atlanta African American woman about youth and AIDS

    "Support what we need to do in order to make children aware of what's going on. If we need to gear more programs to our kids, we need funding to do that."

-- African American woman in Atlanta

    "Education is the only vaccine for now."

-- White Milwaukee man

    "We've got to take care of the people who have it now, but we have to instruct generations to come on how to prevent from acquiring it."

-- White Milwaukee man,
about the balance between care and prevention

    "The window into this issue is youth. The salience of AIDS is heightened dramatically when voters think about the potential impact of HIV and AIDS on their kids and youth in general."

-- Celinda Lake

Polling Data

Youth HIV Prevention Resonates More Strongly
Than Any Other AIDS Issue


Americans who say that HIV prevention is a convincing reason for an increased national investment in the fight against the AIDS epidemic overall


America Wants Youth HIV Prevention
to Parallel Teen Smoking Fight

    Americans were asked if a youth-focused presidential effort on HIV prevention is as important as a youth-focused anti-smoking campaign.
84% HIV prevention equally or more important than smoking
10% HIV prevention less important than smoking

HIV Prevention Reinvigorates Concern
Among AIDS-Complacent Americans

    Those who were less concerned about AIDS today than five years ago were informed that HIV infections are on the rise with half of them among young people.
81% New HIV infections increased concern
10% New HIV infections made no difference in concern

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.
See Also
More on Young People & HIV