12/02/2014 10:52 am ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

The Importance of World AIDS Day

As a native of the Washington, DC metropolitan area, I've seen the disastrous impact of HIV/AIDS on my community. This epidemic has had a heartbreaking stronghold on my city as three percent of our residents are infected with the disease. Those within my age group serve as the only populace to have never lived in a world where HIV/AIDS did not exist. We are the generation living through the effects of the disease and without a cure.

Yesterday, millions young people across the globe united to fight against the HIV/AIDS crisis in observance of World AIDS Day. As we celebrate the success of HIV/AIDS awareness and medical advancements, we are reminded of the thousands of young people and college students that comprise the 39 percent of new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S. The impact of HIV/AIDS stems far beyond those infected; there are many uninfected individuals whose lives have been forever changed since the discovery of HIV/AIDS 30 years ago.

Drexel University law student, Gabrielle Reid, lost her father due to complications from AIDS and her mother is currently living with the disease. Reid contends,

I've made sure that I try to succeed in everything, especially academically, to make my father proud. I know he's not here, but I want to be able to advance his memory and show that he did accomplish a lot in his life and his children's lives.

The struggles Reid faces as the child of parents infected with HIV has provided her with a unique life experience. Reid's story of perseverance serves as a larger representation of the AIDS epidemic's influence on this generation. Reid joins a staggering number of young people who have lost a parent due to HIV/AIDS. Nearly 13 million children will or have lost a parent as a result of HIV/AIDS.

In spite of these startling statistics, the hope of creating an HIV/AIDS free generation has not yet been lost. In honor of World AIDS Day, college campuses across the United States have created campus-wide HIV/AIDS testing opportunities including distributing condoms to students. These efforts will shed light on how to reduce the number of new cases and allow those infected to seek treatment, as nearly 60 percent of young people infected with HIV/AIDS are not aware they have this disease.

This World AIDS Day, we recognize the importance of prevention and bringing an end to this disease by knowing one's HIV/AIDS status through getting tested regularly and often.

The hope for an HIV-free world rests on all of our shoulders.