Written by Anthony Moujaes
A trio of UCC teenagers in suburban Chicago is using World AIDS Day to spread their message on the importance of HIV/AIDS education. The three girls from God Can Ministries created a public service announcement, and posted the video online to share with the world.
The Rev. Anthony Sullivan Jr. of God Can Ministries sought to "[encourage] our young people to think critically and creatively about how to convey a message to their peers and the community at large," he said. The three girls, between ages 12-17, channeled their creativity, crafting a performance which they presented at Sunday worship to commemorate World AIDS Day. This an annual day of remembrance on Dec. 1, is a day of solidarity, a chance for unity, advocacy, education and action in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"It’s usually an adult-led conversation. Rarely do young people have a chance to talk in this type of dialogue," Sullivan said. "There were young people with more information than some adults. For me, that was awesome because that was telling."
In a city like Chicago, one of 12 cities identified by the Center for Disease Control as a high-risk area for HIV/AIDS, education for teenagers is critical.
"Young people are one of the rising demographics [of HIV/AIDS]," Sullivan said. The reason for that is because children are either becoming infected with the disease, or are impacted by it because they know someone who has contracted HIV/AIDS. His plan is to continue the dialogue and give youths useful knowledge in sexual education.
"We’re creating avenues for advocacy and prevention. It’s never too early to have conversations around that," Sullivan said.
The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, executive director of the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network, agrees with Sullivan, and hopes to see more youth involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"I wish more youth groups engaged in this kind of creative activity. What a wonderful learning experience in which they have been able to learn the facts, discuss their values and share with others in ways that promote healthy relationships and effective HIV prevention," he said. "Efforts like this are important for how we get to zero: zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination.
"World AIDS Day is all about how everyone can join together to do their part, not only on Dec. 1, but every day. That is what these young people have done and I applaud them for it."
"Getting to Zero" is the theme from 2011 to 2015 for the World AIDS Campaign’s Global Steering Committee, with the goal of no new HIV infections, no HIV/AIDS discrimination and no AIDS-related deaths.
Read Schuenemeyer's commentary on World AIDS Day.