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Outreach by Bicycle

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

This session was presented by CAP AIDS, a Canada-based organization, which provides small grants to organizations working with communities in Africa. The presentation addressed how effective bikes are in services delivery in African communities. In my country, Malawi, transport is really a big problem and people spend more time walking then providing services. The distances that community health workers have to travel are very long. This makes their jobs ineffective in many communities. However, with the donation of 15 bicycles from CAP AIDS, the service delivery has been improved. For instance, one peer educator with a bike reaches about 40 young people in a week and 200 in a month. This really has a great impact on young people in getting information on sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. A lot of them have been transformed.

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Youth Are Rich in Ideas

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

I was in the skill building session this morning. It focused on "Unemployment, Poverty and Strategies to Empower Youth toward Economic Independence." There was a presentation on the situation of the youth on Saba Island in the Caribbean and structures put in place to promote economic independence.

Clearly from the presentations and results from group work, most countries shared similar youth economic independence barriers. My own country of Ghana is challenged with lack of education and skill, perception and attitudes of both the youth and decision makers, lack of support from the family system and poverty among others.

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Meeting with My Minister of Health

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

As I said in a previous post, this conference is an opportunity for me to remind the decision makers in my country to keep their promises. So, yesterday I had a meeting with my minister of health just after his meeting with the 65 delegates of Burkina Faso who are here at the conference. I should point out that during this meeting, I had the chance to meet simultaneously Mr. Alain Yoda, the Minister of Health, Dr. Joseph André Tiendrebogo, the Permanent Secretary of the National Council in the Fight Against AIDS in Burkina Faso and Mrs. Cécile Beloum, a deputy of the National Assembly. During my meeting with my minister, I asked him three key questions:

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When Science and Passions Collide: Another Perspective

Mark Hiew is a reporter for the Toronto YouthForce. He can be reached at mark.hiew@gmail.com

It seemed like business as usual at the main pressroom on Day 3 of the International AIDS Conference in Toronto. Helene Gayle, President of the International AIDS Society, had just introduced Gregg Goncalves, of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), when the situation rapidly changed. Gregg ceded his spot to two positive black South African women, Sipho Mthathi and another TAC representative-an unusual act in such settings. As Sipho began to speak, a dozen members of the TAC stood up together, chanting slogans and holding signs reading "Gates is not the voice of (People with AIDS)!" and "Media: Activist not 'Hollywood' Conference."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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AIDS 2006 Opening Ceremony

Fimba is a youth from Burkina Faso who is attending the Toronto AIDS conference, sponsored by the Guttmacher Institute. Translation by Leila Darabi from Guttmacher.

I just got back from the opening ceremony and the presentations were interesting, especially the presentation of Bill Gates and a young Indonesian woman living with HIV.

Dr. Helene Gayle directed our attention to governments and the promises that they made during the past two conferences. She recommended that the promises they made aren't put in drawers, but that they are made real and kept. She gave the example that most of the governments made promises to include civil society in development programs and she recognized that some of them have kept these promises, that this is a good thing and she urged governments to continue in this way.

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Chasing the Dream

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.

After a day full of chasing dreams, youth gathered together for a night of theatre, live music, and art. As a volunteer, I had the pleasure to set up Chasing the Dream, an art exhibit of stunning photos, taken by youth in developing countries. These talented youth photographers were trained and released to venture around their community to capture the true essence of fear and excitement that their people candidly expressed. The rest of the night allowed Pre-Conference participants to mingle and enjoy the catered gourmet hors d'oeuvres.

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YouthForce Pre-conference Ready to Rock

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.

When 250 youth from around the world meet to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, how can you not be excited?

The first day of the Toronto YouthForce Pre-Conference couldn't have started with a more invigorating opening session. Grandma Heather Sole, an elder, and Brenda McIntyre, a Medicine Song Woman, blessed us with their presence in a self-healing ceremony. From then on, the aura of the Pre-Conference was filled with the positive energy and strong desire of youth to utilize their minds in order to strategically strengthen their presence at the Main Conference. The sessions covered a multitude of issues, from Trade Justice to Media & Communications. I even overheard some youth participants bewildered because they simply wanted to attend all the sessions!

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