The AIDS Foundation Houston has launched a special event aimed at getting teenagers and young adults tested, KPRC Local 2 reported Tuesday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV. One in five of those don’t know it.
At 19 years old, Destiny Maddox has been living with HIV for five years. Maddox said she contracted the disease from a sexual encounter. At 14 years old, she met a 30-year-old man who she said manipulated her into sleeping with him.
“Two years later, I got sick. I had shortness of breath and I was weak. I knew something was wrong with me and I had to go to the hospital,” she said.
That when she got the news that she was HIV positive.
“Just shocked — still to this day, it’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable to me,” Maddox said.
It’s the shocking reality for countless American youth. A 2006 study by the CDC revealed that almost 20,000 adolescents and young adults were newly infected with HIV in a one-year period.
By the end of 2006, an estimated 56,500 young people between 13 and 24 years old were living with HIV and AIDS.
The CDC said 50 percent of adolescents who have HIV don’t know it and there are about 40,000 new cases each year.
“What we want teens to know is to know your status and know your partner’s status,” Maddox said.
AIDS Foundation Houston is doing its part to educate through Hip Hop for HIV.
The one-month event plans to test 15,000 teens from now until July 31. Testing locations are set up at different areas, and each teen who is tested leaves with their results and tickets to a hip-hop concert to be held at the end of the month.
“We’re using hip hop to get them in our doors. This is a public health intervention or strategy,” Maddox said.
Maddox said she is hoping for a cure, but until then, she wants everyone to get checked to protect themselves.
“It’s just an illness. You can’t let the illness control you. I mean, I could sit back and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to die or I’m worthless,’ but that’s not me. I’m not going to let that get in the way of me,” Maddox said.
For more information on the event and testing sites, visit www.hiphopforhiv.com