Press Release about NHTD:
National HIV Testing Day Should Remind Youth to Be Tested for HIV Too
STATE COLLEGE, PA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- June 25, 2007 -- 20,000 young people are infected every year in the United States each year and half of all new HIV infections occur in those under the age of 25. Who's Positive, a national HIV awareness organization, reminds everyone especially young adults across the United States, to join their peers to empower themselves to know their HIV status and to get tested, on Wednesday, June 27th -- National HIV Testing Day (NHTD).
"Young adults think they are invincible, that HIV can't happen to them. They need to understand that just because there is so much stigma still surrounding HIV, giving reason for people who are infected not to talk about it, doesn't mean its not in their community. The more HIV positive youth can humanize HIV among their peers they more it becomes a prevention tool," says the 28-year old, HIV positive Founder and Executive Director of Who's Positive. It's time for society to wake up and understand that HIV is something that is affecting and infecting today's youth unlike 30 years ago. It's time for parents to talk to their children about safe sex practices, the government to offer comprehensive HIV education and schools to distribute free condoms. This is necessary to help reduce and prevent HIV infections among today's youth -- our country's future.
Donohue will spend the day at the State Capitol in Pennsylvania helping to bring awareness and supporting State Senator, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) as he sets the example by self-administrating a quick and bloodless "OraQuick Advance" HIV antibody test at 3pm. "Pennsylvania ranks too high in infections for our states' leaders not to set the example and encourage testing." Donohue says, "We must continue to work harder to make rapid HIV testing more accessible throughout the state and country, especially in rural communities." Who's Positive is a national non-profit organization which foregrounds the reality of living with HIV through first-hand accounts of young adults coping with the disease. In telling the stories of people living with HIV, Who's Positive hopes to reduce the transmission of HIV among teens and young adults -- a population with one of the fastest growing infection rates.
For more information about Who's Positive visit us at http://www.whospositive.org
My remarks at the Capitol:
Thank you Senator Hughes.
My mom and my dad are grateful. Grateful that I know. Grateful that I have the knowledge I need to keep myself healthy. Grateful because I now know I need tools to keep myself healthy and vibrant for years to come. The United States has over 45,000 new infections each year and 50% are among young people under the age of 25. One forth of youth under the age of 21.
Good afternoon and welcome to National HIV Testing Day. My name is Tom Donohue, from State College, PA. I am the founder & executive director of Who’s Positive, a national non-profit organization which foregrounds the reality of living with HIV through first-hand accounts of young adults coping with the disease. In sharing our stories living with HIV, we hope to humanize HIV to the point it becomes a prevention tool; reducing the transmission of HIV among teens and young adults—a population with one of the fastest growing infection rates.
Nearly four years ago, after a routine test, I tested positive for HIV. For me, my test was routine, I knew that my actions and behaviors were reason to be tested, I never thought it could happen to me – growing up in Williamsport, a fairly rural community where I never knowingly knew anyone my age who was HIV-positive.
If it was not for practicing routine testing, my behaviors at the time could certainly have put many at risk. I could have been walking around you all today infected and never know it; just as many in Pennsylvania and around the country are today. I could have gone these last four years without being tested; if I had, other people could have been unknowingly at risk.
Today is your opportunity to get tested; a swab of the mouth and your screening results back in 20 minutes. Today is your opportunity to know your status and get the support you need. The stigma of testing for HIV is over! National HIV Testing Day is only one day of an entire year to bring to the forefront an epidemic I know can be ended; an epidemic we all can end… together. By knowing your status, and making responsible decisions we can determine our individual fate in this fight against HIV/AIDS. I applaud Senator Hughes and his leadership in brining HIV to the forefront and setting the example that its ok, simple and painless to get tested for HIV. It’s time for society to remove the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and move towards talking about it within your relationships, families, churches, schools and communities. I challenge my peers from across the Commonwealth to empower themselves to get tested, I challenge you to engage in conversation with your partners and I challenge parents and mentors of young adults to break through the taboo of discussing sexual behaviors with your children and understand that HIV can not only infect you and them but affect everyone in your family. Yesterday was not soon enough to start this conversation – but tomorrow may be too late, right now, right now is the time that we must make to have this conversation, this is something that can not wait.
Two years ago I remember my mom standing up at a program I was speaking at, no one in the room knew she was my mom… and she stood in front of all and said she was fearful. When I asked her why she was fearful she said, I am afraid I may have to bury someone I love. – I can assure you I’ll never forget those words, words that I could have prevented from being said, but now, my friends and family are grateful I know my status, I now know I have the tools to keep me healthy, I have the tools to enjoy my life; my niece and nephews life, and most importantly to me the tools to continue awareness of HIV/AIDS among my peers. You too have the tools, to protect yourselves, to keep yourselves healthy and to know your status.
One moment of passion, of intimacy, of irresponsibility not only infected me but changed my life and the lives of so many around me forever. It's time for society to wake up and understand that HIV is something that is affecting and infecting today's youth unlike 30 years ago. Let today become a wake up-call, an opportunity to begin a new routine – a commitment to getting tested or renewing a pledge to being responsible and doing what you can to help stop this epidemic in your own community or rural town.