Why This Generation Can’t Ever Forget The AIDS Epidemic

by Alexandra Svokos

When the AIDS epidemic was at its peak, most Millennials weren't old enough to be aware of it, let alone be sexually active.

The number of AIDS cases in America rose in the 1980s and peaked in the early 1990s before, thankfully, declining.

We were lucky to mature into a generation with a much lower incidence of AIDS diagnoses, as well as with lessened stigmas and discrimination.

But just because there are fewer cases now, doesn't mean we should bang like the American AIDS epidemic never happened.

The incidence of HIV has been stable over the last decade, according to the CDC, with approximately 50,000 new infections every year. The CDC estimates 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the US.

Although these numbers are relatively small, they're not to be dismissed.

Of the 1.2 million people with HIV, the CDC estimates one in eight don't know they have the infection. This means they are not getting treatment and may not be following practices that would help their sexual partners.

Infections can spread easily if we don't follow the lessons previous generations learned. AIDS has not been defeated in this country. It's still very much here and affecting lives across the nation.

This doesn't mean we have to live in constant, celibate fear and push away people who are suffering. It just means we have to be aware and take care of ourselves.

Preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS is pretty easy. All you have to do is get tested regularly and use condoms, especially if you and your partner are not exclusive or haven't both been recently tested.

If you may be at a higher risk of contracting HIV -- if you have a lot of non-monogamous sex or are seeing someone who has HIV -- you can also take the Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pill on top of using condoms and getting regularly tested.

The AIDS epidemic was a wake-up call that safe sex, for straight and gay partners, is a public health issue.

By getting tested regularly and using condoms, you're not just helping yourself -- you're helping whoever you're fooling around with.

Not to mention, using condoms and getting tested does more than just the big job of keeping you from getting and spreading HIV. It also lessens the incidence of other sexually transmitted infections and helps prevent unwanted pregnancies.

And just to get this out of the way: Condoms don't make guys lose boners. Sex is still fun even after you pause for the five seconds it takes to put on a condom.

Using condoms and getting tested may seem like a hassle in the moment, but ultimately they're tiny blips in your life that can keep you -- and your partner -- healthy. AIDS is still a serious problem that can easily grow.

The American AIDS epidemic taught us simple measures can save lives. To forget that lesson would be a dishonor to the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to the disease.

We can't ever forget.