Oct16

Young people are leading the charge of the HIV prevention movement

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Young people are leading the charge of the HIV prevention movement
YTH Youth Advisory Board Member Yaira Matos speaks at YTH Live 2018.

HIV prevention has come to the forefront of youth activism and public health advocacy, as young people aged 15-24 account for 35% of new HIV infections worldwide. In fact, as we work to curb the HIV epidemic, they are the only age group to experience a recent increase in HIV infections. Young people are disproportionately impacted by HIV and face unique challenges in protecting their sexual health as they navigate complex biological and social transitions into adulthood. In that spirit, the FDA recently approved PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) for adolescents, which has huge implications for empowering young people to prevent HIV exposure or transmission.

The activism of young people around this pressing public health crisis stems from the long history of social change in the HIV/AIDS field. The tireless efforts of activists and advocates have been instrumental in the field’s immense progress, from pushing for medical recognition of HIV in the 1980s, to the ACT UP movement, to the Greater Than AIDS campaign that sparked a movement online. Driven to end the epidemic and stigma around HIV/AIDS once and for all, young people across the world are engaging with governments, filming documentaries, spearheading online movements, and launching other innovative grassroots advocacy projects.

In line with the IMPT’s focus on elevating the voices of those most in need of HIV prevention tools to advance the MPT field, YTH ensures that young people both have a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation around HIV prevention. As IAS Youth Ambassador and Generation Now Co-Chair Aurelio Orta Resendiz argues, “Programmes for young people should speak to young people in a language they understand, and they should use modern communication technologies and mobile approaches to reach them wherever they are.” Thus, it is only through meaningfully engaging young people in the design of their own health interventions that we will be able to fully meet their needs.  

This idea drives almost all that we do at YTH. We were recently recognized by ViiV Healthcare for our work around young people and HIV prevention advocacy, as we received the Stamping out Stigma award during the AIDS 2018 conference. With this award, YTH will refine and expand our TransCONNECT app, to help educate and empower HIV-focused healthcare providers to better serve transgender-spectrum youth and young adults. In addition to this program, we also have piloted many other programs that are advancing HIV prevention for youth, including PrEPTech and CyberRwanda.

How can we build on this momentum and ensure that HIV prevention efforts continue to progress in a way that meets the needs of young people worldwide? The young leaders on our Youth Advisory Board created a pledge for both youth activists and adult allies. This pledge allows us to amplify the voices of young change-makers and provides a platform for adults to step back and listen. An excerpt of this statement is below:

We, as the Youth Advisory Board of YTH (Youth+Tech+Health), wish to express our deepest solidarity to all young people whose rights and wellbeing are being threatened at this time, including youth of color, LGBTQI youth, undocumented youth, and Muslim youth, as well as all those affected by the gun violence epidemic.

Following in the footstep of the fierce legacy of youth led movements in United States and abroad, we are proud to see this tradition live on, and we honor the contributions of all of the unsung heroes who have been long engaged in this work, often predating the current political climate. We support the calls to action concerning policy that protects and empowers young people. In light of recent attacks on healthcare accessibility, harmful national dialogue on mental health, and the discriminatory exclusion of the many individuals who we struggle to reach as we strive towards justice, the YAB remains committed to uplifting the diverse experiences and voices of young people to achieve greater equity nationwide.

Read the full statement here.

For both adults and young people alike, the opportunity for HIV prevention action is now. We are making impressive progress in the fight to empower future generations with tools and technologies to protect themselves, but we need your support to make effective and accessible prevention for young people a reality, as well as reduce the high rates of infection that young people face. We invite you to stand in solidarity with young leaders and movement builders by signing your name to this statement. Let the future become the present, by standing up with youth, for youth, in your community, and across the globe. 

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YTH is the partner of choice for those in search of new ways to advance the health of youth and young adults through technology. We drive change by creating, evaluating, and refining technology solutions and providing partners with proven models ready for scale and replication. We also build the capacity of the community to advance youth health by providing research, training, idea generation, and expert advice. Learn more about our work here and keep up with us on social media @ythorg.

About the Author

Erin McKelle

Erin McKelle serves as Communications Associate for YTH. Erin is a multi-talented creative, who has written for various popular online publications. She has also worked for many organizations that foster youth leadership, advocacy, and empowerment, as well as supported social justice efforts.

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