The Power of the Youth

Joyce is from Ghana. She is representing the Guttmacher Institute's Protecting the Next Generation Project at the conference.

I believe strongly in the power of the youth that can make a lot of difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I take inspiration from the young South Africans my age or even younger who fought for the freedom of South Africa.

I just closed from a poster discussion section which focused on the "Power of the Youth". It was good to realize how much concerned organizations are doing for the youth. Issues addressed by the organizations included that of gender which deals with both males and females-also inspiring because many gender activists are sometimes tempted to focus on only females, forgetting all about males. This indeed is not Gender Equity as they claim.

My major concern is the fact that the youth power was not felt at all in this discussion.

Walk This Way

Beth Pellettieri is the Coordinator of the International Youth Leadership Council at Advocates for Youth and the co-chair of the Toronto YouthForce Advocacy Task Force.

Too often people talk the talk without walking the walk. This year, the Toronto YouthForce is aiming to change that by ensuring youth activists have tools to follow up with leaders after the International AIDS Conference. Through the Commitments Desk, key leaders, policy makers, and program managers are making concrete commitments for stronger youth participation and leadership in their governments, organizations, and programs. Toronto YouthForce members are then posting and distributing these commitments at the Youth Pavilion and via the internet so that young people can hold their leaders accountable to these promises after the International AIDS Conference.

The desk has become a huge success! Over 120 adults[img_assist|nid=469|title=Bill & Melinda Gates Talk to Toronto Youth Force Members|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=479] have made key commitments to young people. In addition, key leaders are utilizing the space to show their concrete commitments to young people in the press. Visitors (and I've met them all!) include Bill & Melinda Gates, David Miller, the Mayor of Toronto, and Mary Robinson, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Morals or Politics?

Naina Dhingra is the Director of International Policy at Advocates for Youth and serves on the Developed Country NGO Board Delegation of the Global Fund.

Last night, the government of Sweden hosted a satellite session investigating the question of morals and politics in HIV prevention. The session should have been renamed "Speaking Out Against the U.S. Government's Moralistic Approach to HIV Prevention." The Swedish Ambassador for HIV/AIDS, Lennarth Hjelmaker, introduced the session by discussing Sweden's approach to HIV. Sweden has prioritized sexual and reproductive health as a key component to successful HIV prevention and is stepping up its involvement in the global community. This is good news for the sexual and reproductive health and rights community as Sweden is the new chair of the UNAIDS governing board known as the Programme Coordinating Board (PCB).

Hot Topics in Human Rights and HIV/AIDS

Fimba is from Burkina Faso. He is representing the Guttmacher Institute's Protecting the Next Generation Project at the conference.

Yesterday I sat in on a session where two of the five presenters really made me think. This "Hot Topics" session is important for me because I am the head of the human rights program for my organization, the African Youth Network for Health and Development in Burkina Faso (RAJS/BF). I really liked the presentation on advocacy to governments to support mother-to-child prevention programs and access to treatment for all, because this is a problem in my country.

International Youth Unite

Patricia is from Uganda. She is representing the Guttmacher Institute's Protecting the Next Generation Project at the conference.

I have just attended yet another interesting and very informative session at the International AIDS Conference here in Toronto, where a panel of five came and shared their experiences about working with young people. This session was of interest to me, as it highlighted a number of issues similar to what I do with my organization in Uganda. The youth have come out strongly during this IAC with a strong call to their governments, richer nations and big organizations to provide more support to help them realize their dream: an AIDS-free generation.

I come from a country where the government has made tremendous efforts in trying to reduce HIV infection from about 31% in 1993 to 6.4% in 2005. But one thing still remains, the youth are still at highest risk of infection and yet little or no effort in some areas is being made to make youth friendly services available to young people.

Deny the AIDS Deniers Now More Than Ever

It is important to expose AIDS deniers wherever they exist, and the denial that many still have about HIV/AIDS and real-world solutions. In that spirit we tip our hat to Kim Sue blogging from Toronto for Time To Deliver AIDS Activist Blog. She states:

So how do denialists operate? Denialists selectively abuse out-of-date, peer-reviewed literature for their own purposes. In addition, they highlight legitimate scientific uncertainty as evidence for incompetence.

Making Women’s Voices Heard at IAC

Maria de Bruyn is a Senior Advisor for Ipas and a medical anthropologist by training. At Ipas, she has identified, researched, and publicized linkages between abortion and other sexual and reproductive health issues, including HIV/AIDS.

One issue that is receiving a great deal of attention at the International AIDS Conference is the effect the AIDS epidemic is having on women and girls around the world.

In 1992, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) was formed at the Amsterdam AIDS Conference. There, HIV-positive women spoke out about the need to address gender biases that increase their vulnerability to HIV infection, worsen the stigma and discrimination attached to AIDS, and place most of the burden of care for AIDS patients and orphans on their shoulders.

Today, 14 years later, some progress has been made.

Gateses Speak Out for Women

As coverage of the conference continues to roll along, I thought I'd make an addition to Tamar Abrams' post from earlier: we have video footage of the remarks from both Bill and Melinda Gates that Tamar mentioned in her post.

These clips both include strong messages of support for the need to reduce stigma and provide women with greater support in the fight against HIV/AIDS. As the Gates Foundation vies for its place among the G8, it should be encouraging for reproductive health advocates that they are making such bold statements.


[img_assist|nid=458|title=Melinda Gates at IAS Conference|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=640|height=524]

Videos (c) The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Senseless Attitudes Toward Women and Sex Workers From World’s Male Leaders

In reading the early coverage from the Toronto AIDS Conference, there are a few things that leap out of the stories and, as someone living with HIV, make my stomach turn, and my heart leap with hope ... usually all within the same story. Humanity is at a critical juncture with respect to AIDS - a fact which is lost on no one attending the conference. Unfortunately, the approach of many political leaders and conservative ideologues is to deny the reality of the situation in favor of policies that are ineffective, reward political cronies, or (in the case of conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper) ignore AIDS and the largest gathering ever assembled to share ideas and strategies for solutions to HIV.

One of the biggest topics of conversation, as the Washington Post reports, is a "prevention strategy controlled by women -- and usable without the knowledge or permission of men."

Pause for a moment. Re-read that sentence.

Conference Opens with Youth Focusing on Health Care Workers

Meheret Melles is a 20 year old Ethiopian-American student at the University of Maryland. She is on the International Youth Leadership Council at Advocates for Youth and a member of the Student Global AIDS Campaign.

Attention! Attention! The International AIDS Conference of 2006 has finally begun! With warning from my fellow colleagues that endured three hours of waiting to register for the Conference, I decided to wake up early to make the registration process as brief as possible. With only 20 minutes spent for registration, I enjoyed the rest of the day exploring the Youth Pavillion, which included lounges for chill-out sessions and booths for organizations to offer information on youth-led international HIV prevention work.

The highlight of the day was surely the Opening Session of the Main Conference. Political leaders like the President of Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Johnson, the UNAIDS Director of HIV/AIDS, Peter Piot, and a globally-known couple with a fair amount of money--Bill and Melinda Gates. Even with all these "famous" speakers, the highlight of my day was the spontaneous demonstration organized by a US-based coalition of advocacy organizations, including my personal favorite the Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC), to fully fund the Fund for Health Care Workers (HCW) in the fight against HIV/AIDS.