Raising awareness: Teens can start a movement

Raising awareness: Teens can start a movement

By Melissa Douglas
As we know, celebrities are very influential in our lives and can easily start a trend. Celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce have shared with us their stories of success, words of wisdom and motivation to be just as fabulous as they are.
As teens, you too are capable of being influential.
One way is to use your voice to spread awareness about HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus. Spreading awareness during HIV/AIDS awareness days, i.e. National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which was Feb. 7, is important in your neighborhood, school, social groups and community.
One group of teens did just that. In 1996, Teens With a Purpose, or TWP, started as a small group of teens at a church who wanted to provide HIV/STD services to at-risk teens. Today, the organization has grown into a community-based organization.
With TWP as a guide, you can see that teens have the power and knowledge to educate others about what’s going on. It can simply start as an occasional Facebook status update that includes myths and facts about HIV/AIDS, or it can be a symbolic picture uploaded on Instagram with a question or statement for your followers to comment on.
Only you can know whether you’re ready to be intimate. Don’t let anyone pressure you into sex. It’s a big step — and one that needs to be carefully considered. But before you do anything, it’s important to know your status, your partner’s status and to be aware of the testing centers in your community.
It’s never safe to assume that someone is going to be honest about their status. If you are sexually active, a good habit is to first practice safe sex by using condoms. But you also should get tested for HIV routinely.
It also important to know about OTHER STDs (yes, HIV is considered a sexually transmitted disease) and the signs and symptoms associated with them. Your body can be at a higher risk of contracting HIV if you have other STDs such as gonorrhea or Chlamydia.
Knowing your status is very important and is never a topic of shame. Have discussions with friends and partners about sex, safe practices and the consequences of not practicing safe sex. You never know whose life you might save!

To read more about TWP, visit http://www.twpthemovement.org/about.twp.html