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World AIDS Day

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HIV awareness sign for World AIDS Day Awareness at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA
Barry Winiker/Photolibrary/Getty Images

What is World AIDS Day?:

About's Guide to Gay Life explains, "World AIDS Day (WAD) is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS. WAD, organized by The National AIDS Trust, increases awareness of the dangers of HIV and AIDS, including the challenges finding a cure, efforts to prevent the disease and the obstacles faced by those living with the virus. World AIDS Day takes place annually on December 1."

The AIDS Memorial Quilt:

Over the years, I have observed World AIDS Day in many different ways. I've lead workshops, handed out safer sex supplies, and overseen HIV teen educators as they did the same.

Each was important in its own way. But one thing that always stands out for me was the World AIDS Day when I saw panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt for the first time.

Officially called the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, this work of community produced art is a huge dedication to people who have lost their lives to the disease.

The quilt was started in 1987 and continues to grow every year. Panels are made by family and friends to commemorate loved ones. They are usually very personal and offer a glimpse in a life cut short.

The quilt gives humanity to AIDS, and turns the huge numbers of AIDS deaths into real people who lost real lives. If it is ever displayed in your area, I highly recommend going to see it.

Testing Positive for HIV:

It can be hard enough to screw up your courage and get tested for HIV. But what do you do if the test comes back positive, indicating that you have the virus that causes AIDS?

There is no one way to respond when getting an HIV positive diagnosis. It is common to feel scared, depressed, angry, confused and shocked. These feelings can hit you all at once, build up over time, or turn up unexpectedly long after a diagnosis.

Most teens who test positive for HIV benefit from support and a lot find it really important to tell family and friends what they are going through. But this can also be complicated.

Being HIV positive or having AIDS is nothing to be ashamed of. However, if you think it would be dangerous to share your status, at home, at school or in your community, then you might want to hold off on doing do.

Hopefully, the place where you got tested was able to give you information about local services. But you can also contact your nearest GLBT community center. Many have support groups for HIV positive teens, or know where you can find one if they don't run a group themselves.

Additionally, the Well Project and the magazine POZ offer this list of services that can be helpful.

The best way for HIV positive teens to stay healthy is by getting the proper medical care. Though it might be tempting to stick with your regular doctor, unless he or she specializes in HIV / AIDS, it would probably be a better idea to find someone who does.

World AIDS Day:

December 1st is World AIDS Day. This is a day that was founded in 1988 to raise awareness about HIV / AIDS.

And really, our awareness has definitely been raised since then. These days, we know more about HIV / AIDS than ever before. We also have massively improved treatments and life expectancies for people with HIV than we did in the early years of the virus.

But while AIDS is not longer considered the automatic death sentence it once was, it is still a really serious issue for GLBT teens.

In fact, according to the CDC, young men who have sex with men continue to contract HIV in alarming numbers.

There are a lot of reasons for this: everything from misinformation, to the mistaken belief that the disease is no longer all that serious, to a lack of self esteem and power among gay youth, which can make it hard or impossible to practice safer sex.

So what can you do? One thing is to educate yourself about the virus. Another is to talk to someone you trust if you feel like you are putting yourself in risky situations and try to come up with a plan for staying safe.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the risks of anti-gay bullying and suicides by GLBT teens. But that doesn't mean we can forget that other types of risks are still at large.

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