The International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) has officially begun in Durban, South Africa.
I spent my first couple days in Durban attending Living 2016, an official pre-conference of AIDS 2016. The Living 2016 pre-conference is a leadership summit for people living with HIV. It is designed to give energy, support and training to activists. A recurring theme I heard throughout the pre-conference was to include more young people living with HIV in our organizations.
While these young people are facing many of the same challenges you and I face, they face additional challenges. One session gave an example of a youth being one of the last to know their status. Their parent hid the youth’s HIV status from them, but told others, such as teachers and an uncle. Another example included youth being told their entire life not to have sex. Only to reach an age where they wanted to have an intimate relationship and have a child.
These sessions taught me to value young activists and acknowledge their challenges. As leaders, we need to include youth in the leadership, development and evaluation of programs. When we involve youth, it is important to allow and welcome their freedom of expression and respect their knowledge of these different challenges.
As leaders, we need to work in solidarity with those who are different than us because that is how we effectively change the status quo to make a REAL difference!