MotherJones ND93: Your daughter’s voice

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When Antigone Hodgins went in for an HIV test three years ago, she never thought she might be positive. “I was totally unprepared,” the twenty-five-year-old San Francisco native says. “I had no pre-test counseling. The woman who gave me the results was someone I’d never seen before. I didn’t understand anything, not even the difference between HIV and AIDS. I cried for three months.”

After the initial shock wore off, Hodgins focused on her anger. She quit college to look for a way to make a difference. But no one was dealing effectively with the population she belonged to: teenagers and young adults, especially young women.

Seeing a need for HIV-positive speakers young people could relate to, Hodgins started speaking in area high schools. Despite bad experiences with judgmental parents and school administrators, she formed a speakers’ bureau to train other young speakers. The bureau now has nineteen speakers under the age of twenty-five.

“One parent told me I didn’t look like I’d sleep with a scummy drug user,” says Hodgins, who had practiced safer sex for several years before she tested. “What do you say? We’re the faces of AIDS. Tell your daughters. Deal with it.”

Statistics back Hodgins up. A United Nations study released last summer describes teenage girls, whose thin vaginal linings make them more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases than older women, as the “leading edge” of the worldwide AIDS epidemic. A 1991 Centers for Disease Control study showed that by ninth grade, 40 percent of all students have had sex, and by twelfth, that number rises to 72 percent. And while heterosexual transmission still accounts for fewer than 10 percent of all reported AIDS cases, rates are rising precipitously. By this year, HIV infection/AIDS had become the sixth-leading cause of death among U.S. citizens ages fifteen through twenty-four.

Hodgins now works full time at Project AHEAD (Alliance for the Health of Adolescents), one of a handful of federally funded Pediatric HIV/AIDS Demonstration Projects aimed at adolescent HIV/AIDS issues. She is also forming a national task force of young HIV-positive men and women to participate in national and international AIDS conferences. Hodgins thinks that one young voice is not enough. “Testing empowered me,” she says. “It can empower other young people, if it’s youth-specific and if there is good pretest counseling, but we need to get together so our voices can be heard.”

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DONALD TRUMP & DEMOCRACY

Mother Jones was founded to do things differently in the aftermath of a political crisis: Watergate. We stand for justice and democracy. We reject false equivalence. We go after, and go deep on, stories others don’t. And we’re a nonprofit newsroom because we knew corporations and billionaires would never fund the journalism we do. Our reporting makes a difference in policies and people’s lives changed.

And we need your support like never before to vigorously fight back against the existential threats American democracy and journalism face. We’re running behind our online fundraising targets and urgently need all hands on deck right now. We can’t afford to come up short—we have no cushion; we leave it all on the field.

Please help with a donation today if you can—even just a few bucks helps. Not ready to donate but interested in our work? Sign up for our Daily newsletter to stay well-informed—and see what makes our people-powered, not profit-driven, journalism special.

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