December 6, 2019
The AIDS Outreach Program at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center hosted the 20th annual Youth World AIDS Day prevention-focused conference for high school students. This year’s event was held at the Clinton Inn Hotel and attended by more than 250 students from 7 schools in Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic counties, along with teachers, school nurses, and guidance counselors.
“Educating teens and young people about HIV and AIDS is critical because prevention is the only way to stop the spread of the disease, and New Jersey has the 7th-highest number of HIV cases out of all states in the U.S.,” said Steven Sperber, M.D., chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Hackensack University Medical Center. “Teens need to understand that someone could have HIV and transmit the virus through sexual contact, even though they don’t have any symptoms and aren’t aware that they are infected.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every nine and a half minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV. During the conference, Hackensack University Medical Center physicians, nurses, and social workers from the Divisions of Adult and Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Virology, and Pharmacy participated in a panel discussion and answered questions from students regarding the transmission of HIV, symptoms of the virus, and prevention. Confidential HIV testing was offered to students by Buddies of New Jersey.
“HIV and AIDS is a serious global population health issue that affects approximately 37.9 million people around the world, and approximately 1.1 million people in the U.S.,” said Donna M. Wilson, MSN, BSN, RN, patient care coordinator for the Division of Infectious Diseases and organizer of the Youth World AIDS Day conference. “It’s a critical part of Hackensack Meridian Health’s mission to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and improve public health in our communities through HIV and AIDS education.”
According to the most recent statistics from the CDC, youth aged 13 to 24 made up 21 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States and were the least likely to be aware of their infection when compared to any other age group.
“Not only is the Youth World AIDS Day conference educational, informative, and thought-provoking, but it also gives educators and medical professionals an opportunity to create a dialogue with teens to help them make better choices about their health,” said Ms. Wilson.
Hackensack University Medical Center began the World AIDS Day conference for teens in 1999, with 76 attendees from five schools in Bergen County.