People growing up today have never known a world without AIDS. Young people are disproportionately affected in the HIV pandemic: 45% of the new infections worldwide are among youth aged 15 to 24. This means every minute 5 persons under the age of 24 get infected with HIV.
Young people at AIDS 2010
Globally, 5.4 million adolescents are living with HIV. Youngsters are the age group most vulnerable to HIV infection due to many factors like lack of information, societal influences and their inability to access health care services. Building youth leadership is crucial to an effective AIDS response among and by young people. Therefore, mobilising youth networks worldwide and making young people visible at the AIDS 2010 conference as delegates, organisers, speakers and peers is indispensable.
The Youth Program included a variety of activities like the youth reception, a leadership development workshop, an advocacy campaign and numerous discussion forums, skills-building workshops, art and video. Youth-led initiatives and peer-based education were on-going, like a clinic offered by Dance4Life about how to raise awareness amongst young people about HIV/AIDS and raise money at the same time by organizing dance-events. As DJ Tiësto, dance4life ambassador, puts it: “Dance4Life engages young people around the world to do something about the HIV/AIDS problem in an attractive way. The combination of serious content and entertainment assures that dance4life gets young people on the move.”
During the seminar ‘Another brick in the wall’ students from all over the world discussed how different the problems concerning HIV/AIDS are per continent and even per country, depending on knowledge, health care, politics and so on. Global consequences and causes of HIV/AIDS are very often interwoven and therefore difficult to understand. To get more knowledge about this and realise that exchange and joint projects between countries in the ‘West, East and South’ are significant made this workshop very useful.
Let’s talk about sex?
Knowledge is power; education and talking about sex is important. The next step is to empower young people, to advocate for current and critical issues affecting young people worldwide, and further pinpoint current strategies for effective change. Empowering young people to prevent sexual and other transmission of HIV infection among their peers is about implementing policy changes; to provide rights-based sexual and reproductive health education and services. This can be achieved by ensuring access to HIV testing and prevention efforts with and for young people in the context of sexuality education and by ensuring enabling legal environments to reduce vulnerability to HIV.
Joelle Reid (18), England, Youth volunteer Centre for All Families Positive Health (CAFPH). CAFPH aims to enhance the skills of people living with HIV/AIDS so that they are supported to live a fuller life and to be involved in all levels of civil society.
“I feel that knowledge is the key to get young people like me involved with the HIV/AIDS issues because youngsters are the most vulnerable group and it’s very important that they all know how to be preventive.”
Clelia Molina (20) and Miriam Fischer (19), Austria, visiting the “Get ready for AIDS 2010”- reception and festivity.
“The band Dunkelbunt playing at this party made us come here, we didn’t know about the conference in Vienna. I think it’s good to have a conference about HIV/AIDS but I don’t really understand why it’s held in Vienna”.
“I think that the problems concerning HIV/AIDS are very different all over the world and the consequences vary very much, but it exists as well in Europe as in African countries.”
Jessica Whitbread (30) from the United States, Northern American representative for the International Community for Women living with AIDS, present at the Youth Reception.
“I truly believe that it’s important to involve young people, not only because they are the future leaders and policymakers but also because they influence peers, they have fresh ideas and can push things forward.”
The Vienna Youth Force is generating common advocacy messages on behalf of young people around the world in regards to HIV prevention, the rights of young people living with HIV, and sexual and reproductive health rights. Check it out.
By: Marjolein Nieuwdorp, Netherlands