four 25-year-old people who carry many labels: white, black, and Latino;
male and female; straight and gay; HIV positive and HIV negative. We are
from different religious backgrounds and different parts of the country.
There are more things that distinguish us from one another than make us
similar. Yet, at our core, we are young people who have been affected
or infected by HIV and AIDS, and we are deeply troubled by what the future
may hold for us and our generation.
seven million people in the world between the ages of 15 and 24 have been
infected with HIV. Many of them have already died. Our generation has
inherited an epidemic that is killing our parents, friends, and loved
ones, teachers, doctors, and role models.
to prepare this report, we heard the voices of young people who are living
with HIV/AIDS. We heard from their friends, their caregivers, their parents,
and their families. Facts and figures help us understand the scope of
the epidemic, but it is these voices that help all of us understand the
pain, the frustration, and the suffering that so many young people are
experiencing due to HIV and AIDS.
out to examine the impact HIV and AIDS have had on America's young people.
We spoke with young people whose lives have been touched by AIDS; with
public health professionals engaged in HIV prevention, treatment, care
and research; and with activists advocating for change. Each encounter
brought us face-to-face with the realities of HIV and AIDS in the lives
of young people.
met young people who are fighting for their lives and dealing with issues
that most Americans cannot imagine at such an early age: their own mortality.
We have also seen the fear and helplessness in the faces of young HIV-negative
people who have grown up in the shadows of AIDS. And we have seen the
tremendous courage of those living with HIV and AIDS who have used their
own experiences to educate and protect their peers.
are not unique and these stories are not new. For more than a decade,
concerned professionals and policy makers have sought ways to address
the threat that HIV and AIDS present to our nation's young people. Hearings
and conferences have been held; reports have been written and distributed;
promises have been made. But not all of those promises have been kept
and it is time to sound an alarm.
running out of time. HIV is cutting a deadly path through the future of
this nation. It does not respect nationality, social class, or sexual
orientation. It has invaded this nation's cities, suburbs, and rural communities.
protect young people through ignorance. We cannot protect young people
by denying that they are inquisitive, sexually active, or given to experimentation.
They and we are all these things. Yet, with education, information, and
skills we can protect young people and prevent the spread of HIV.
our hope that this report will open the hearts and minds of policy makers,
parents, leaders, and young people. With strong leadership, a shared commitment
to action and personal responsibility, and a compassionate nation we can
-- once and for all -- stop this epidemic in its tracks.
President Clinton for his leadership in the battle against AIDS and his
willingness to focus on this controversial subject. We also thank Patsy
Fleming for reaching out to young people for their ideas, their voices,
and their leadership.
Bustos, San Francisco, CA
Alex Danford, Dayton, OH
Michele Kofman, New York, NY
Mangierlett Williams, Washington, DC