National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

Group of students

April 10th is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD). NYHAAD is the first annual observance day set aside to recognize the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on young people.

National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) serves as a reminder that investing in young people’s health and education is a critical step to achieving an AIDS-free generation. This annual observance was created in 2013 by partners to educate the public about the impact of HIV/AIDS on youth.

Youth in the United States

In the United States, 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses were among young people aged 13-24 years.  Getting tested for HIV is an important step toward prevention; however, testing rates among high school students remain low. Only 9% of U.S. high school students have ever been tested for HIV.

The recently released YRBS Data Summary and Trends Report Cdc-pdf[16.7 MB] focuses on four priority areas closely linked to HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including sexual behavior, high-risk substance use, violence victimization, and mental health over the past decade. This report shows that although overall students are making better decisions about their health, there are still too many students reporting risky sexual behaviors, high-risk substance use, violence victimization, and poor mental health.

Graphic: National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day April 10

Sexual Risk Behaviors among Youth

From 2007 to 2017, CDC data show declines in sexual risk behaviors among youth, including fewer currently sexually active high school students. The proportion of high school students who ever had sex decreased from 48% in 2007 to 40% in 2017.

Still, the prevalence of some behaviors remains high and puts young people at risk. For instance, condom use among sexually active students decreased from 62% in 2007 to 54% in 2017, presenting a serious health risk for HIV and STDs.  Additionally, some young people, including lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth, often remain at greater risk for negative health outcomes. For example, 15% of LGB students have had sex with four or more partners during their life, compared to 9% of heterosexual students. It is critical to use tailored approaches to reach the youth at highest risk with the right interventions, in the right way, at the right time.

Addressing HIV in youth requires that young people are provided the tools they need to reduce their risk, make healthy decisions, and get treatment and care if needed.

A group of diverse high school students studying out doors
Students who are taught about HIV in schools are more likely to be tested for HIV.

The Role of Schools

Schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people. The nation’s schools provide an opportunity for 56 million students to learn about the dangers of unhealthy behaviors and to practice skills that promote a healthy lifestyle. Because schools reach millions of students in grades 9-12 every day, they are in a unique position to help young people adopt behaviors that reduce their risk for HIV, STDs, pregnancy and other related problems.

Some ways to encourage youth to stay healthy are to teach them about HIV/AIDS and other STDs, promote communication between youth and their parents, and support student access to confidential HIV counseling and testing services. Schools are also important partners in supporting HIV testing among adolescents.

How can schools encourage students to get tested for HIV?

  • Use health risk behavior data to prioritize needs
  • Teach students about HIV and other STDs
  • Connect students to health services that include HIV testing and counseling
  • Encourage students and their parents to talk about HIV

What CDC is Doing

CDC engages an established network of leaders in school-based HIV prevention, STD, and pregnancy prevention by funding education agencies that reach approximately 2 million students. These funded partners:

  • Deliver HIV, STD, and pregnancy prevention programs grounded in the latest research
  • Select and implement effective health education curricula
  • Build local capacity to connect students to school- and community-based health services
  • Establish safe environments where students feel connected to school and supportive adults

CDC also funds organizations to help education agencies with training, technical assistance, and resource development to increase the impact of local programs. CDC supports adolescent and school health efforts using  state-of-the-art monitoring systems designed to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on youth risk behaviors and school health policies and practices. The data CDC collects are vital to knowing the trends and changes in youth health risk behaviors, and determining the extent to which school policies and practices can help improve the health of youth.

Under the U.S. government-proposed HIV elimination initiativeExternal, there is much hope that the HIV epidemic can be ended in the U.S.  in the next decade. With today’s powerful tools, we know how to prevent HIV and to help people with HIV stay healthy.

What Can You Do?

CDC recognizes the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on youth and the importance of HIV prevention. On NYHAAD, CDC joins with partners across the country to ensure young people know how to protect themselves against HIV. NYHAAD encourages everyone to:

  • Get educated. Learn the basic facts about HIV transmission, testing, and prevention.
  • Get tested for HIV. CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 years get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Contact your health care provider about testing.

Parents, schools, and community- and school-based organizations and health centers must work together to help provide safe and nurturing environments for youth.

Help raise awareness about this important day by sharing communication messages and resources.

  • NYHAAD Resources Web page: This page contains information that is helpful in planning communication activities to inform and educate partners, stakeholders, and media about HIV in youth and the importance of recognizing the impact of the disease on young people. Included are graphics, sample social media posts, and links to additional resources for state and local education agencies, healthcare providers, and parents.
  • NYHAAD button: Post this web button on your site.