Local Organizations Partner to Raise Awareness about Growing Number of Youth with HIV

It was the 1980s and early 1990s when “HIV” and “AIDS” rose to the national stage, sparking confusion and fear and killing thousands. For today’s youth, that may seem like ancient history, but the reality is that young people are among the fastest-growing population for new HIV cases.

There are 34,000 people ages 13-24 living with HIV. One in four new cases of HIV is among young people. Almost 60% of youth with HIV in the United States don’t know they are infected. About 1,000 young people are diagnosed with HIV each month.

National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is April 10, and Charleston area organizations are banding together to bring attention to a serious issue for today’s youth. Lowcountry AIDS Services, We Are Family, Charleston Area World AIDS Day and MUSC’s EMPOWERR Program along with College of Charleston’s Black Student Union and the Cougar Counseling Team are partnering to host a screening of “Broken Heart Land” on April 7. The documentary explores the response of friends, family and community members to Zack Harrington’s suicide in Norman, Okla., in 2010. Harrington was a well-liked, openly gay teenager who carried a secret he was unable to disclose to his family or community prior to his death: he was HIV positive. 

A reception begins at 6:30 p.m. in the College of Charleston Robert Scott Small Building Room 235, 66 George St. The film screening begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a Q&A session with a panel of community leaders, including Michael Davis, a local HIV-positive young man.

“This event in important because of the alarming rate of new infections within the teenage and youth demographics,” said Topher Larkin, prevention outreach & quality management coordinator at Lowcountry AIDS Services. “By shining light on the awareness of what is happening in our own Charleston community, hopefully youth are able to properly educate themselves and their peers in promoting safe behavior. 

The film highlights the need for community acceptance and directly addresses the critical issues of HIV/AIDS awareness, lack of comprehensive sex education, stigma and marginalization attached to HIV – issues that are still considered taboo in many communities.”

Lowcountry AIDS Services will offer free HIV testing before and after the event.

The event is free and open to the public but space is limited; reserve your seat at bhlcharleston.eventbrite.com.