This week, thousands of activists from around the world have united in Mexico City for the 17th International AIDS Conference.
This is an incredibly exciting event for me, not only because it is
my first International AIDS Conference, but also because I will be one
of over 200 participants at the Youth Pre-Conference, organized by YouthForce.
The YouthForce, coordinated by Advocates for Youth, Ave de Mexico,
Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TakingITGlobal, and Youth Coalition,
is a coalition of non-governmental and international organizations working
to ensure meaningful youth participation as well as partnerships between
young people and adults to increase the visibility of youth HIV and
AIDS issues before and during the International AIDS Conference.
Since the establishment of YouthForce during the 2002 International
AIDS Conference in Barcelona, during which only 200 young people participated,
youth attendance more than quadrupled at the Toronto AIDS Conference
in 2006 with more than 1,000 youth delegates attending the conference.
In addition to the Youth Pre-Conference, Mexico City YouthForce has also sponsored a youth reception, the youth pavilion, a commitments desk,
and an advocacy campaign, among others.
Unity among young people is crucial for this movement to
succeed and the Mexico City Youth Pre-Conference is a great opportunity
for young activists around the world to meet, network, and build coalitions.
More than 25 years into the pandemic and with more than 6,000 young
people infected with HIV each day, we need to work fast.
Young people are at the center of the pandemic. In fact, young
women ages 15-24 are the new face of HIV and AIDS.
of people around the world have no access to reliable and comprehensive
sex education. The majority of policy makers still feel like they
can come up with curricula that are influenced by ideology instead of
science, while we, the young people, have to suffer the consequences.
But hopefully that is soon to be changed. At this year’s International
AIDS Conference, I look forward to building effective partnerships with
other young people from around the world. We will take these partnerships
back to our homes and leverage them to reach out to our policy makers.
Let’s face it: we have the testimonies, we have experiences, and we
have the stories.
this year’s YouthForce advocacy campaign focusing on key messages
that demand Rights, Respect, Responsibility, and Resources for young
people, I look forward to establishing effective partnerships with not
only the policy-makers at home, but also with global health organizations.
These partnerships will demand commitments-commitments to provide
comprehensive and accurate information, services and resources, respect,
and a responsibility to empower young people to make healthy decisions.
I am thrilled and excited to be one of hundreds of young people working
together to have our voices heard!