AIDS increasingly affects the young. Half of all people infected by HIV today will be under 25. Todd Murray, 26 and HIV positive, wanted to put a human face and voice to these tragic figures, so he founded Hope’s Voice. Young speakers from Hope’s Voice travel to high schools and colleges sharing their experience of contracting HIV so that others don’t have to.
“If someone had come to my high school from Hope’s Voice, I would have been much safer,” said Kevin, 23. Kevin found out he was HIV positive at 22, the day after he told his parents he was gay. “We had Abstinence Only programs in school and I didn’t know anything about condoms.” Kevin recently became a speaker for Hope’s Voice and thinks sharing his story is a better way of educating young people about HIV than hearing it from a doctor.
Abstinence Only programs are the latest effort by the federal government to stop AIDS among youth. These programs forego teaching condom skills and instead ask young people to abstain from sexual relations before marriage. Abstinence Only programs receive the bulk of federal HIV prevention funding for young people, though they have been repeatedly proven not to be effective.
Critics complain that Abstinence Only programs leave young adults more vulnerable to the diseases they are intended to prevent. When young adults inevitably have sex(over 80% of all teenagers that take a pledge of abstinence fail to maintain it), they don’t know how to use condoms. Abstinence Only programs were initiative by the Bush Administration and received strong support from conservative groups.