08
Sep
09

The youth HIV crisis: how Seattle and teens are working together for a better future

From the Examiner.com

One of the most unthinkable things as a parent is that a child may become ill or be diagnosed with a disease, such as HIV.  In the United States we are blessed with many valuable resources and a number of different educational opportunities that can aid us, as parents and community members, in the effort to decrease the risks and infections among our youth.

In recent years the number of HIV cases reported among teens and young adults is increasing dramatically. The 6th leading cause of death since 1991 among people aged 15-24 is AIDS. One half of all new HIV infections in the United States occur in people less than 25 years old. In young adults unprotected sex accounts for more than half the infections, and one-third from IV drug use. In children, the most common mode of transmission comes from a pregnant mother passing the infection along to her unborn child.

The first step is prevention. Knowledge is power.  The most vital thing that  can be done is to educate yourself so that you can pass this information on to our youth. HIV CANNOT be spread through: casual contact, such as hugs or handshakes, drinking glasses, sneezes, coughs, mosquitoes, towels, toilet seats or doorknobs. HIV CAN be spread through unprotected sex and IV drug use. We cannot be afraid to talk to kids, to educate them on the use of condoms and the risks of drugs.

Seattle and King County have partnered with South King County high school students to put in place a program called Youth HIV Prevention Project. The project involves teenagers sharing information regarding prevention of HIV and self care for those who have been diagnosed. Visit the website for more information.

Children who have been diagnosed should be monitored closely. HIV and AIDS in children is complicated and requires precise medical management by health care professionals. Kids will need to have their blood work taken frequently, their treatment plans updated consistently, their medication regimens followed and any sign of infection needs to be recognized and treated immediately.

There are many youth services in Seattle. The Lifelong AIDS Alliance offers a youth program. Seattle public schools are given funding for HIV prevention and education, so any questions you might have could be directed to your school’s guidance counselor or principal. A few other area resources for Seattle youth include: Lambert House, Youthcare, and NorthWest Family Center.

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