AIDS 2012 Conference Review

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Surving, Stories & Stigma

I came to Washington for AIDS 2012 hoping to learn from the many sessions as well as meet other’s who have joined the global effort to end HIV/AIDS. While I was exposed to a diversity of panels and sessions from around the globe showcasing the hard work of individuals from all walks of life that have inspired me to continue to be an advocate, what touched me the most were the personal stories that I found throughout the conference. Stories of love, of life, and of birth, and of death. Stories of health and illness, and so many stories of survival. Some stories were accompanied by photographs or art , some were in movies screened in the Global Village. Others were not accompanied by any imagery. The words laid bare yet ever still so powerful.

As I stopped to read these stories and consider them each individually, a noticed a theme among them that I could not ignore. While many people living with HIV or AIDS continued to live productive lives, engaging in a number projects and working relentlessly in their communities, I was troubled by re occurring commonalities- discrimination, isolation, and stigma. As it was well put in the Thursday performance Music and Musings from the Life of a 27 year Survivor, many of the everyday social barriers that people living with HIV/AIDS face constitute “components for an extremely lonely existence”.

I could not help but wonder why it was that as we joined hands during this one week in Washington, making promises not only to ourselves, but to future generations, that loneliness from isolation due to social discrimination still pervaded the daily experiences of positive peoples. And for this reason I believe that we must continue in our efforts to develop not only more scientific advancements, but also engage the media in providing more educational messages concerning HIV/AIDS while highlighting the very really harms of stigma. We must make it up to personally each and every one of us to de-mystify and lessen the fears associated with HIV/AIDS.

By coupling scientific with social goals that promote equity, acceptance and compassion, we can foster a sense of community that has the potential to take us above and beyond. From the depth of my heart, I want to thank all of those who shared or contributed in the sharing of stories that have greatly changed my perspective.

— Yamina Sara Chekroun (YouthRISE worker, former TRIP! Outreach Worker)

Yamina Sara presenting TRIP! at AIDS 2012

Yamina Sara Chekroun presenting at AIDS 2012 Conference

From the youthAIDS2012 website:
Youth Force Declaration for Change
Youth Force Declaration for Change infographic

Top 10 ideas

All young people have the right to sexual and reproductive health services that are accessible, available, safe, affordable, quality-approved, youth-friendly and adapted to their specific needs.

Meaningful youth participation at all levels of decision-making is crucial in the development of effective SRHR and HIV programmes; participation must include not only those with resources but also those on the ground levels.

We demand ACCESS to youth-friendly prevention, treatment, care and support services for all young people, including young people living with HIV, so that our right to the highest attainable standard of health may be achieved.

Comprehensive and appropriate information about HIV should be accessible to all young people including those with disabilities, in & out of schools, migrants & those living in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.

We demand increased funding for research that focuses on HIV among young people addressing not only prevalence rates but also lifestyles and behavioral patterns, risk factors and other areas needed for HIV response.

Increase ACCESS to financial & technical support that strengthens youth organizations and youth led initiatives to increase our impact in the HIV response, by creating mechanisms that assure money transfers down to the ground.

We demand universal access to sexual and reproductive health integrated services that includes the specific needs of women and girls, respecting their human rights and an emphasis on equity and respect for diversity.

Eliminate social, cultural and political barriers in accessing health services among young people by making interventions gender and age-responsive, rights-based, and sexual orientation and gender identity-inclusive.

We demand more support for capacity building programs that empower youth and enable them to participate effectively in policy making especially concerning areas that affect them like environment, health and rights.

We demand PROTECTION by the law. We must not be criminalized because of our sexual orientation and gender identity, drug use, HIV status, disability and/or sex work.

You can check out all the ideas and more information on the project site.