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In its Fourth Decade, HIV Still Affects the Young

4/24/2013, 9 p.m.
Howard University senior Brian Johnson, a volunteer for Metro TeenAIDS, looks over the shoulder of fellow volunteer Monique Thompson in front of MTA's RealTalk bus on April 11. MTA took the bus into Wards 7 and 8 to offer free HIV testing. (Michelle Phipps-Evans/The Washington Informer)

"I'm not nervous at all," said Wilson, 25, a Silver Spring, Md., resident. "This isn't my first time. I know my status and I do what I have to do." Besides visiting Howard to offer free HIV tests, MTA took its RealTalk bus into Wards 7 and 8 to offer these tests. About 60 people received HIV tests, said Dwayne Lawson-Brown, a community outreach coordinator for MTA.

"In the District, we have a special understanding of how HIV/AIDS can destroy lives," said Adam Tenner, MTA executive director. "We won't stop until we have created the first AIDS-free generation."

Advocates for Youth, which provided the majority of the literature for the National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day, insists that although 50 percent of young people say they want more information about HIV, only 22.6 percent of sexually active high school students have been tested.

Goforth understands the impact that HIV can have on loved ones.

His 23-year-old adopted son, who came out as a homosexual to his biological family at 16, has lived under the cloud and shame of having the disease for several years.

"He would take his medications in private, closing his door," said Goforth, 47. "He's an example of what we see, young, gay black men who are disowned by their families, sofa surfing, and who have to deal with both being gay and their HIV status." He said that churches need to provide some leadership as HIV and AIDS enters its fourth decade.

"I'm always shocked how after all this time, attitudes toward HIV haven't changed all that much," said Goforth, who has had HIV since 1992. He said people can live with the disease, take their medications without dramatically changing their lives.

"People still ask me if they could get it though saliva or from kissing. We have to change people's minds on what HIV is, and we have to continue to encourage young people, all people to get tested," he added.