News / Health

Youth Want Voice at AIDS 2012

YouthForce is a global youth movement.YouthForce is a global youth movement.
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

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs