Skip to main content

April 24, 2019 - A Spoken Word Perspective on Youth and HIV Stigma

Activist and artist Dasan Ahanu worked with the ATN to write and perform his spoken word piece on youth HIV stigma in this video, in observation of National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on April 10, 2019. Watch the video and see the transcript below.


"Purposeful Gardening" by Dasan Ahanu


You can’t grow flowers in the dark

Every budding beautiful needs light

Whether a dim calming affirmation

Or bright bold radical dawn

Blossoming potential needs

to be illuminated

they need to breathe freely

They need care, understanding

They need to be rooted in love

Be able to reach to new heights

Display all of who they are

Then watch them provide inspiration

For everyone trying to learn to be


Did you know that a quarter of all

new HIV infections in the US occur in youth?

High cases of undiagnosed infections

Ongoing work to provide

durable link to care

Young people unaware of their infection

Young people unable to talk

with family about identity,

sexual orientation

Searching for place, for answers,

for light

Just wanting to breathe freely


They can’t be left in the dark

Can’t keep facing a suffocating stigma

Judgement is not an answer

We need green thumbs

Instead of gavels

Open arms, support, compassion


New clinical trials, resourced agencies,

ongoing research, advocacy,

comprehensive education



Flowers can’t grow in the dark

So closets are not greenhouses

The streets are not flower beds

To celebrate the rose that made it

through concrete

is to exoticise the flower

without considering the systematic

and institutionalized paving

of dismissal, scrutiny, and marginalization

We need to make our youth more aware

We need to increase interaction with care and services

We need to involve them in advocacy

so that they can help their peers

know that what they do doesn’t

have to stay in the dark

That there are options

and they will find light there


Not race, not ethnicity

not social economic status

Not the arms you find love in

Not the you they don’t understand

Not none of it should ever

be justification for wilted flowers

Our tomorrow’s deserve

all our efforts

to help them grow


For our flowers to continue to grow, adherence to HIV medications is key. Safe and healthy sexual practices is critical and a compassionate, understanding support system is necessary.

We want them to blossom and flourish.



(end of transcript)