In September 2014, I had the pleasure of attending the Countdown to Zero AIDS event in Denver, Colorado. This event was sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund and featured a number of prominent speakers. I was asked to bring Native youth from our community. I selected two boys and three girls. Some of these youth had never flown on a plane and some of them had never met each other. A requirement for them to attend this event was that they would come back to their churches and teach a class on human sexuality.
I have had the privilege of chaperoning youth for eight years to writing events, but this was the first group to learn about AIDS and how it is affecting the Native communities. Of the six youth at the meeting five of them came from Western North Carolina Conference. These youth were special in that while they were connected with their Native American heritage and identity, they also had phones and email addresses. Youth such as these can help build bridges between Native Americans and others. Their age was 14 to 17. I must say I was proud of them as they participated in panel discussions and they were very outspoken in their group.
Since returning from the conference Noah, a youth from Charlotte, has spoken to two churches about AIDS and how it can be prevented. Takota Hammonds and Cameron Watson have spoken at Triad Native American Church. These youth are now AIDS Ambassadors. They can teach their peers, their churches families that AIDS is preventable and no longer carries a death sentence. Today these youth are teaching that it’s OK to speak about AIDS in our churches and that the church is a place that sexuality should be talked about.
Daphine L. Strickland