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How My Daughter Became an AIDS Activist on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

This guest post is from Donna Crews, director of government affairs at AIDS Action: My 17 year old daughter became an AIDS activist yesterday!  As we enter the third decade of HIV and AIDS I realize my daughter -- born in 1992 -- has grown up with HIV and AIDS all of her life.  I took her to the National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Congressional Briefing sponsored by National Association of State AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and the Office of Women’s Health.  This was not her first HIV event, she has attended HIV events with me previously, but something said yesterday caught her attention.  It might have been the statistic that HIV is the leading cause of death for African American women ages 25-34 that Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary, Dr. Howard Koh referenced.  Janet Cleveland, Deputy Director of Prevention Programs, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the fact in graph format that resonated with her.  Or it may have been the statistic that Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls stated that according to CDC data from 2005, 26% of people living with AIDS in the United States are women. She may have heard the comment that adolescent girls are at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases at alarming rates.  Dr. Gail Wyatt, Associate Director of the University of California – Los Angeles AIDS Institute, stated that more girls will be abused in the United States than will finish college, which may have been the statement that grabbed her attention, since she is off to college this fall.  It may have been the statistic that Rev. Debra Hickman, President and CEO of Sisters Together and Reaching stated, “each day approximately 41 women acquire HIV.”  I may never know what led my daughter to say at the conclusion of the 5th observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Congressional Briefing that she wanted to be an AIDS activist and proceed to talk to people who she felt could make that happen.  But I realized that empowering a new generation of girls to talk about HIV with their peers is what this observance day is really about.  Had the observance day event not occurred she would not have heard the statistics or the call to her activism.  We must utilize all outlets, messages and observance days to reach and teach the next generation.  They have to ask the questions -- Why do I live in a world with HIV and AIDS?  What can I do to educate my peers to remain HIV negative?  Where are the best venues to reach those who need to hear HIV prevention messages?  Who are the best people to deliver the messages?  What do I need to do so that the next generation does not have to live in a world with AIDS?

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