Living with HIV: School
HIV affects thousands of teens and young adults. Between 2006 and 2009, 29,740 teens and young adults between the ages of 13-24 were diagnosed with HIV. In 2009, the young adults between the ages of 20-24 accounted for the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses. Even though HIV has been around in the United States for approximately 30 years and HIV/AIDS education is included in school based health curricula, there are still misconceptions and stigma associated with the disease.
In the fifth entry in our “Living with HIV” blog series, teens and young adults address what it’s like to live with HIV in middle school, high school, and college. All of the material was written by teens and young adults living with HIV.
-The Young Men’s Health Initiative staff
- “My sister put that I had HIV on my medical emergency card. I was scared because there was one kid collecting them for the teacher. I didn’t want them to know I had HIV so I told them I forgot my card. Later, I gave it to my teacher and told her that I had found it. I felt really panicky because I was afraid of people reactions and actions towards me if they found out I had HIV.”
- “I’ve only disclosed my HIV status once in my life. I was in the 7th grade. I trusted her; we were friends for three years. After I told her I was HIV positive she told another girl in our class who screamed “HIV!” out loud in the classroom. I told my sister and she got really mad and wanted to confront the girl or her mother. I said no because I was more afraid that it would confirm that I had HIV to the class. I don’t tell people now. Trust is a big issue for me. I used to think I could tell people, but now I don’t think I can.”
- “In high school I was secretive. I had good friends, and then I had “good friends”. I couldn’t just tell them everything. Like when I got sick because of my meds, I lied and said I was sick from something else because I didn’t feel I could trust people. Like Hannah Montana, I feel like I have two lives.”
- “It’s hard to have conversations with people when they make negative comments about HIV or other things like that because it feels personal, even when it’s not. I don’t want them to think I’m being defensive and then assume something.”
- “The biggest problem in high school for me was assimilation. I had recently moved to the US and I was just coming into myself and learning about myself, and a lot of kids had already done that. It was hard to feel comfortable and immerse myself during that time. There are a lot of things kids don’t get, especially in high school. Trust is a big issue. In college it’s easier because people are more PC, more careful with what they say. In high school, people just burst out with stuff that can be hurtful and they just don’t think.”
- “This kid in my class was doing a project on HIV. He thought he knew everything but was making really ignorant and incorrect statements when he was researching it online. I was trying to educate him a little and help him out on his project. Then he made the comment “Eww, working on this stuff will make me get HIV.” It pissed me off. I got so mad. I feel like I can’t say how mad I am though because then people will assume I have HIV.”
- “This girl from school got tested for HIV and then put on her Facebook a picture of the negative test like “boo-ya, I’m negative!” That’s personal information; you shouldn’t be putting that on Facebook! It really bothered me, like people do have HIV – have some sensitivity!”
- “People get a savior complex in college. They go to Nicaragua for a week or something and say they are changing the world. I know they’re learning and at least they are doing something good, but it’s not sustained throughout their lives. They still don’t understand what’s going on.”
- “One day in the lunch line a guy screamed out joking with his friends “I don’t want to get AIDS.” I didn’t know what to do. No one knew I had HIV and I was stuck for eight hours with them. I couldn’t get away and process what I was feeling. In college, I at least can get away and be in my own space when I need to.”