News / Health

    Young People Navigate Relationships, Romance and HIV

    Suzanne Presto
    WASHINGTON — Relationships and romance. They are tough to navigate for all young men and women, and they are even more complicated for young people who are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. 

    HIV-positive youth who work with AIDS Alliance discussed disclosing one's HIV status at the International AIDS conference in Washington.

    The exercise in this panel discussion: whether to disclose HIV status in a hypothetical relationship. Red means no, green means yes and yellow means maybe.     

    There's a variety of responses in the scenario.

    Jahlove Serrano, an entertainer from New York City, says there is a lot to consider. "Do I need to disclose this soon? Am I close to putting my partner at risk? Is our relationship ready for sex?" he pondered.
     
    The young panelists have faced the dilemma about disclosing their HIV-status. "When I date, I openly disclose a soon as I meet somebody, just hoping they'll give me the same respect and tell me if they're dealing with anything else or anything I should be aware of that could probably compromise my health even more," Serrano clarified.

    Cristina Jade Peña, who studies public policy in California, recalls the conversation with her first boyfriend, back when they were teenagers.  "I sat down with him and told him and it took a long time.  It was a long conversation and he picked me up for a date the next day and we've been together ever since," she recalled.

    That's 11 years and counting.  It's proof that, with proper precautions, young people with HIV can have fulfilling relationships with partners who aren't infected.   

    "As a teenager or as a young adult who is sexually active, HIV changes its meaning.  It's no longer just your disease," said Peña. "You have to be mindful of your partner or your potential partner, or at least that's the way I saw it at that age."

    Dee Borrego, a transgender woman who lives in Boston, says disclosing can pose dangers and also complicate relationships. "There are a lot of things that can come along with it, like feeling pressure or feeling guilt or feeling anxiety.  It can be an overwhelming process," she stated.

    These youth advocates were born in the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS was a new, baffling disease. They have lived with HIV for much of their lives, or, in Peña's case, all her life.  She was born HIV-positive.     

    "My mom told me about my status when I was nine years old.  I asked my mom, 'Can I talk about it?' and at the time it was advised not to be open about your status," Peña explained.

    She began to speak at HIV-related fundraisers away from her hometown in order to maintain her privacy.

    Peña now devotes much of her time to educating people. "There's this in-between from a child to young adult and there's all these challenges and barriers and circumstances that aren't being addressed or I felt weren't being addressed enough," she said.

    She's part of the first generation to navigate a lifetime with HIV. "What does it mean to be on antiretrovirals our whole life?  What happens to us with the side effects?  A lot of people can't answer these questions because there are no answers yet," Peña added. 

    Answers that could come from a young woman who doctors didn't think would live past age five.

    "Then it was 18.  And, at this point, I'm looking at living until 99," said Peña. "I don't know if I want to live to 100, but 99 sounds like a nice number."

    Nearly five-and-a-half million young people around the world are living with HIV, and almost half of all new infections are among people under the age of 25.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Don Warner Saklad
    July 29, 2012 6:46 AM
    The strategy... BEFORE sex get tested TOGETHER for A VARIETY of STDs then make an INFORMED decision.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora