NYPC members attend international AIDS conference

Almost half of all new HIV infections in the world are among people under 25. To discuss this, and other issues around HIV/AIDS, two members of the National Young Professionals Council attended an international conference being held in the U.S. for the first time.

On July 22-27, “AIDS 2012”, an annual international conference held on AIDS, was held in Washington DC.  Two members of the National Young Professionals Council, Bianca Kahlenburg and Katie Soe, attended parts of the week-long conference.  This included a pre-conference youth session and a Red Cross Red Crescent HIV Community of Practice Meeting. For the youth session, over 200 youth leaders from across the world got together at American Red Cross headquarters to discuss youth hot topics in the HIV/AIDS movement. The Red Cross Red Crescent meeting included both volunteer and staff leaders who coordinate Red Cross international response and Red Cross programs that address HIV worldwide.

A panel discussion at the AIDS 2012 conference discussed the role of youth leadership in the fight against the global aids epidemic. The panel was led by Ashanta Osborne, chair of the IFRC Youth Commission and an HIV/AIDS program manager with the Guyana Red Cross Society.  Ashanta was joined by three other youth leaders from various organizations and countries across the world. Their stories ranged from living with HIV to how they are helping educate their communities in countries where cultural obstacles made the fight even harder.

Topics included how youth are overcoming these obstacles and connecting within their communities to raise awareness and educate. The aim is to advocate for current and critical issues affecting young people worldwide, and further pinpoint current strategies for effective change. Building youth leadership is crucial to an effective AIDS response among young people and by young people, especially for key affected populations. This includes, but is not limited to, young people living with HIV, young people who use drugs, young sex workers, young men who have sex with men, young women, young migrants, and youth in prisons.

The Red Cross Red Crescent HIV Community of Practice Meeting addressed the changing context of HIV and the current state of research, funding and programs. Each region addressed global HIV programming in their area since the Vienna XVIII International AIDS Conference, a panel was held to address the IFRC Global Alliance on HIV, as well as sessions addressing monitoring/evaluation and issues regarding gender and HIV. Future plans were created, as well as opportunities to present posters and network. Charlott Nordstroem, Norwegian Red Cross Youth and Member of the National Youth Board then addressed the Youth Leadership Summit and Implications for the RCRC.

Overall the conference was extremely inspiring and empowering. The panelists’ stories and recommendations for strategies on HIV education to the audience demonstrated again how youth are not the leaders of tomorrow but the leaders of today in a critical health issue that effects everyone across the world.

Did you know? Estimates show that more than 7,400 people become infected with HIV daily, 3,300 of whom are young people. Globally, 5.4 million young people are living with HIV. Young women under age 25 are at an even greater risk for HIV infection and comprise 57.4% of infected youth. Young people remain the most vulnerable group to HIV infection due to many factors, including lack of information, education, societal influences, and inability to access healthcare services.

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