How Paris Jackson Wants You to Help In the Fight Against HIV/AIDS
In this op-ed, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation ambassador Paris Jackson explains the 5 ways you can support National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
I turned 20 exactly a week ago, and over the past few years, I’ve been unapologetically navigating self-creation, fostering authenticity, and working on my passion for activism. Just last fall, I was named an ambassador for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation during the Global Citizen Live event in New York City. Following in the footsteps of my godmother (Elizabeth Taylor), I’m trying to use my celebrity as a platform to illuminate a social issue that has faded from the spotlight: the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
In just one generation, public awareness about the virus has diminished — partially due to advancements in medical technology, but also because of neglect of the communities that continue to struggle with the disease.
In 2018, only 13 states require that information related to HIV and sexual health taught in high schools be medically accurate. This means many high schoolers may not have the opportunity to learn the facts about HIV and may be internalizing myths and misconceptions, such as fear of transmission from kissing or by coming into contact with toilet seats or cooking utensils used by someone living with HIV. According to Kaiser Family Foundation’s recent National Survey of Young Adults on HIV/AIDS, more than 50% of people ages 18–30 said they think current HIV medication options do not reduce the risk of passing HIV to a sexual partner. In fact, treatment is so effective that people living with HIV who take medication have effectively no risk of transmitting the virus.
We’re 37 years into the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, and institutionalized oppression is still the oxygen that this crisis breathes. Uncoincidentally, communities that have historically been subjected to prejudice — such as people of color, LGBTQ people, economically disadvantaged people, sex workers, and drug users — also experience higher incidences of HIV and AIDS.
And it’s not just HIV and AIDS: Throughout the past decade, we’ve continued to see high rates of teen pregnancy, STIs, suicide, mental health issues, and HIV disproportionately affecting young LGBTQ folks and people of color, especially in areas without inclusive, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health resources, like parts of the U.S. South.
We are the ones shaping the world for future generations, and we have the opportunity to fight for the rights of people my age to access quality education and health care, and for our right to be included in conversations and decisions regarding our own well-being. We’re demanding transformation, and we must do our absolute best to challenge and change the system in which we live; we must participate in demonstrations and continue to create movements like #NoDAPL, March for Our Lives, and #MeToo, because our lives literally depend on it.
Here are 5 ways you can do something in honor of National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day:
- Get educated about HIV/AIDS and learn the facts.
- Shop for a cause.
- GTFO (get tested f*cking often): If you’re sexually active, getting a sexual health screening is one of the most accessible, affordable, and immediate ways to protect your health.
- Get involved! Join a digital community on Facebook, volunteer at a nonprofit, start a blog, share your story or listen to someone else’s.
- Join #GenEndIt, a youth-led movement to end AIDS by 2030. This resource can help you navigate how to speak up and share information about HIV and social justice–related issues with your friends and family.
The tools to end HIV/AIDS by 2030 exist. We have a collective responsibility to demand and lead a transformative response to the HIV/AIDS crisis that is inclusive of all communities at risk. Please, join me, so not one more person has to suffer from this preventable disease.