News / Health

Youth Want Voice at AIDS 2012

YouthForce is a global youth movement.YouthForce is a global youth movement.
x
YouthForce is a global youth movement.
YouthForce is a global youth movement.
Joe DeCapua
The latest report from UNAIDS says young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 40 percent of new adult HIV infections. It also says many are misinformed about prevention and transmission. Despite that, many young people are involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS and they’ll be attending the 19th International AIDS Conference.



Members of a global movement called YouthForce say young people lack access to many of the things that will protect them from HIV. They’re calling on leaders and policymakers to hear what they have to say about AIDS, and include them in decision-making.

Kikelomo Taiwo, a 25-year-old Nigerian woman, volunteers to fight stigma and discrimination in Abuja.

She said, “Anywhere you find people living with HIV, particularly in Nigeria, people stigmatize against them. People discriminate against them. It’s so bad that today in Nigeria compulsory HIV/AIDS testing is a prerequisite to get into the university. And once a university discovers you’re positive they deny you admission. Based on that we decided to come up with a campaign called the HIV/AIDS anti-stigma bill campaign.”

Taiwo criticized a current anti-stigma bill before parliament, saying does not go far enough.

“The bill only focuses on stigma and discrimination in the workplace. The needs of young people are not being considered. Because this government also knows – I want to believe they know – that young people are the most at risk, and the most affected population living with HIV. So we want to have an HIV/AIDS anti-stigma bill, but it doesn’t cover or protect the needs of young people,” she said.

She learned first-hand how vulnerable young people can be when they are uninformed and unprotected.

“Growing up as a child I was abused sexually. My sexual rights were violated. I didn’t get comprehensive sexuality education. I just felt like the people around me didn’t do well in giving me the right information, or the things I needed to become strong in my personality in making decisions. And I just wanted to learn more about sexuality, and also inspire young people to come out of their box and be all that they wanted to be,” she said.

Too often in Nigeria, she said, young people do not have a voice, and that many politicians and family members don’t listen.

“I personally feel like the Nigerian government leaders are just bloody politicians. They just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, and they never do anything. As a young person who is not married, I don’t have health insurance. Education is so expensive,” she said.

Taiwo added Nigerian youth need help and resources to be healthy and educated.

Jaevion Nelson, a 26-year-old from Jamaica, is also attending AIDS 2012. He’s head of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network.

“I realized how important it was to begin to be involved in HIV and AIDS after getting over my fears about HIV and people living with HIV. All that sort of stuff that, you know, young people like myself are often times, because of ignorance, afraid to be involved. And it was a fantastic opportunity, because I realized just how all social issues I was working with over the years really impacted on young people’s sex lives, young people’s sexual reproductive health and young people’s rights,” he said.

He was not surprised by the UNAIDS report on the high-level of HIV infections among young people.

“Despite progress in HIV and AIDS over the world – despite progress in increased funding -- and despite more effective programs – young people’s needs are still underestimated and still largely unmet.  And so it speaks to the level of seriousness that we need to approach HIV and AIDS,” he said.

25-year-old Kathy Wollner is starting her final year of medical school in Chicago. Like her YouthForce colleague Kikelomo Taiwo, she’s focusing on battling stigma.
“I think part of what attracted me to this work is that HIV and AIDS is often an illness that’s very stigmatized and affects communities that can be quite marginalized. And I come from a point of view where I believe that health care is a human right for all people,” she said.

Wollner said social media are powerful tools for spreading the YouthForce message about youth rights and needs.

“It’s very important,” she said, Young people around the world, even if they’re not able to participate closely in YouthForce planning, or if they’re not able to attend the conference themselves, their voice is still heard, and they can still state what they think is most important to be included in the work that YouthForce is representing at the international AIDS conferences.”

During AIDS 2012, YouthForce will issue a Youth Declaration. It’s based on the recommendations of hundreds of young people around the world on how best to end the epidemic.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs