If you were a congressman/congresswoman what new law would you write to address whatever you believe to be the biggest issue facing PLWHA?

Mike's Answer

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the individuals who were affected faced a plethora of issues. Now, in 2017, we don’t face as many issues, but we face enough. For myself I believe the biggest issue I face is stigma. The stigma around HIV/AIDS has absolutely settled since the epidemic, but it hasn’t diminished enough. Care and treatment for PLWHA has come so far the last 30 some years giving everyone who is living with the disease a chance to live a full and healthy life. Stigma on the other hand, now that’s the disease. In this moment, if I had the ability to create a law that would focus on the demolition of the stigma, I would create a law pertaining to sexual health education around HIV/AIDS. Within the last year and a half or so I don’t even know how many outdated educational sources I’ve come across from educators in schools that date HIV/AIDS education back to the early 1990’s. This is a HUGE issue. This is a huge factor and contributor to why the stigma still stands strong and why HIV/AIDS are affecting the younger generation. There’s no excuse to why I should have to do an intake with a young adolescent, sophomore in high school who was diagnosed with HIV because the education system still stands by abstinence based learning. It’s simple. If you tell a teenager “just don’t have sex”, the chances are they’re going to engage in sexual behaviors. If you tell a teenager “If you’re going to engage in sexual behaviors, because the chances are high that you will because you’re a walking ball of raging hormones, make sure to use a condom to prevent the transmission of HIV and STIs”, chances are they’re going to have sex with a condom. No, kids and teenagers shouldn’t be engaging in high risk sexual behavior, but the reality is, THEY ARE. We we were all young, adolescent teenagers going through puberty once. No one is innocent in the department of exploring your sexuality. My law would make it mandatory for youth in grades 6-12 to have to take a Health class specifically pertaining to HIV/AIDS, but with updated, realistic and non-stigmatizing educational material. I would make it mandatory that every year until graduation every middle school and high school soul has to take a full semester of Sexual Health Education on HIV/AIDS. Why would I make such a law? Simple: infections among youth are completely unacceptable, especially with the advancements that have been made with ART (antiretroviral therapy) over the last 30 years, and now PrEP. With this law, that of course would have to go through the Department of Education, I would also somehow add in that all minors should not be obligated to get consent from their parents or guardians to obtain treatment and care for a chronic illness that has the potential to kill them. Also PrEP. There should be no age limit for PrEP. Why? Simple: youth and teenagers engage in high risk sexual behavior, and because of the lack of Sexual Education in schools within our country, kids barely even know what condoms are, let alone how to even use them. At least if they knew what PrEP is and knew they didn’t need consent from a parent, well, at least we’re preventing the spread of HIV within the youth age group. Sexual Health Education around HIV/AIDS is beyond imperative for adolescent minds. Their brains are like sponges, and I know if they were offered this mandatory class for 6 years, something will stick. AND with updated educational material, the stigma would steer away from this is only a gay mans disease, on top of shattering the other myths some teens have about HIV/AIDS. This is all hypothetical, of course, but it should become a mandatory reality.

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