Youth Force 2012 – Teen Spirit in Washington DC

Posted on: 26th July 2012

‘Lets make an AIDS free generation’

At last, the anticipated Youth Force pre-conference for AIDS2012 kicks off.

The event began with an amazing speech from Michel Sidibe – executive director of UNAIDS who reminded us that in the movement to stop HIV, we must come together regardless of age , gender, race or background. Of course, he knows that there are barriers between us,  but claims that UNAIDS can lead the effort for an AIDS-free generation, particularly in areas of high risk, such as young people 16-24.


Surely they know what they need and what is lacking. Although listening is great, Sidibe also promised that action will be taken and support provided. That change will happen.

40% of new HIV infections are in young people aged 16-24. I guess we can only wait and see if this figure falls.

When discussing HIV prevention, I believe it is most important to talk about sex education and ask ourselves the question, is it comprehensive enough? Beyond just talking about how wrong it has gone, we need to highlight where it has been suspended. This is a platform for change, especially in these modern times.

Maya Koumanova of Youth Sexual Awareness for Europe stated that sex education should advance to cover objectives such as; sexuality, emotions, human rights and most importantly, life skills. I took a minute to think about different cultures and communities in London – the city I live in. There are campaigns about safe sex constantly , information readily available on the internet and posters on buses and bus stops reminding you to think about chlamydia and to wear a condom. But where are the campaigns that will encourage people to get tested, to encourage compassion and empathy towards others, to present HIV-related discrimination as what it is, a violation of human rights?

At least we can take heart that this conference was full of young people looking to affect change. At the time of publishing this, Youth Force tweeted the line below. It sums up why we need to act.

“Young people are not the leaders of tomorrow: they are the leaders of now.”

Thanks to Teen Spirit Board of Directors member ‘S’ for this post, all the way from sunny Washington!

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