Awareness This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     I can honestly say that I was the first of my friends to learn what AIDS meant.

By the time I entered kindergarten, I could tell you that it stood for acquired immune deficiency syndrome and that it was contracted from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). I knew this because I was lucky enough to have my mother educate me. I always remember her sporting her red ribbon and writing checks to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS organization (a group that helps Broadway actors who are affected).

When I asked why she cared so much, she simply told me she had lost friends to the disease. I thought about losing my friends to a disease because there was no cure, and it left me wanting to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Unfortunately, I do not possess a “science mind” so I couldn’t help search for a cure, but I do have a passionate heart for the problem. Although I am only in high school, I am proud to say that one day I will find a way to help in this march toward the cure. What my classmates and I do now to promote awareness is just the beginning.

Like most high schools, mine is filled with students who still think that AIDS can be spread as easily as mono. Last year for World AIDS Day, I led my school in a Mercy Corp and Save the Children activity called Sticker the School to try to show students how prevalent and dangerous the disease is. Students visited all the classrooms and put a sticker on every sixth person. At an assembly later that day, we had stickered students stand to show just how many people worldwide are infected with the virus every day. I got the idea to do this from the Global Citizen Corps Leadership program, where Mercy Corps trains teens to become advocates.

The biggest problem among students when it comes to AIDS awareness is the lack of tolerance. Unfortunately, many still believe that only homosexuals get HIV. Students who don’t condone homosexuality often make fun of the disease and those who contract it.

Little do they know that the virus is more prevalent in heterosexuals and can even pass from a woman to her unborn child. They neglect to think of the 6,000 children who are orphaned by AIDS every day, and they don’t have to live in fear of their parents dying from it. They neglect to appreciate the fact that they can survive without having to take antiretroviral drugs several times a day. Worst of all, they neglect to care about those who do.

My school’s Global Awareness and Peace Promotion Club took part in the National Day of Silence last year to raise HIV/AIDS tolerance among teenagers. Despite some mocking by a few insensitive classmates, we spread our message effectively and were proud to educate our peers on the issue.

Although education is important, the number-one goal should be to spread tolerance. Despite some people’s preconceived notions about homosexuals and drug addicts, everyone deserves respect. I understand that some people are not as passionate about the cause as my mother and I are, but at least they should be aware of the dangers of this disease and how it is spread.

The idea that some people are judged for having the disease is disturbing to me. It is that lack of respect - and tolerance - that impedes progress to finding a cure for this disease that affects so many worldwide.

To get involved in the Global Citizen Corps, go to

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
today at 7:17 am
i love this so much!
RachHawley said...
Nov. 7, 2010 at 6:41 pm
My English teacher used this piece in our class as a model of exemplary work! Great job bringing attention to important issues!
BasketballChick5 said...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm
good job.................
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