Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sunday Reflections: World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is celebrated every year on December 1.

The CDC estimates that 1,148,200 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 207,600 (18.1%) who are unaware of their infection and can pass it on to others, who can then pass it on to others.

HIV lives and reproduces in blood and other body fluids
We know that the following fluids can contain high levels of HIV:
  • Blood
  • Semen (cum)
  • Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
  • Breast milk
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Rectal (anal) mucous


AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. Today, people can live decades with medication and treatment before HIV turns into AIDS, but here is no cure.

There are a couple of newer YA titles that deal with the subject of AIDS in the life of teens:

New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

Lucy has had the worst week ever.  So she does something she would never dream of. Now her life is completely different…every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left
My first awareness of HIV and AIDS came from Ryan White.  Ryan lived in Indiana, I lived in Illinois. He was a few years older than I was, and when his story started hitting the news, it struck a chord. Ryan contracted HIV during a blood transfusion and was diagnosed in 1984. While that might have made him a footnote in medical journals, his school expelled him for having HIV, fearful that he would give HIV to the other kids in the school. I remember the photos of Ryan and his mother, lined up with the protesting parents outside the school. On one side were the small number that were supporting Ryan, and on the other a huge crowd with nasty signs saying that they had to protect the innocent and that they were going to withdraw their children if Ryan stayed. They even had teachers walking with those who wanted him out of the school- one statement I remember vividly was people questioning what would happen if Ryan used the water fountain and then someone else did- would SPIT give someone else HIV? 

Ryan went on to become a national spokesperson for HIV/AIDS and education and surpassed his doctor’s estimates of 6 months to live- he died in April 1990, right before his high school graduation and almost 5 years after his predicted death. Through it all, I remember looking at his pictures and watching the interviews and just seeing this boy- he could have been me, and caught this horrible thing, and people were treating him so horrible.

After that, I kept everything to do with AIDS and HIV on my radar. I read and watched As The Band Played On. I’ve participated in creating memorial squares for people and I’ve seen the AIDS Memorial quilt.  I’ve done walks and fund raising. I’ve talked to teens about safe sex and condoms, and what the consequences are- because I’ve lost college friends to AIDS. It always amazes me how much we don’t teach kids, and how much they could loose because people are afraid to talk about things. I’d rather both myself and a room of teens be embarrassed about the strange lady talking about “sexy times” than to lose someone else to AIDS. Or the strange lady talking about not sharing needles or finding clinics for free tests (which are becoming fewer and farther between) than to lose another light.

HIV/AIDS is like cancer in that it strikes silently. HIV/AIDS, however, is preventable. We just need to start taking steps, one person at a time.