Angela - USA
A SERIES OF INTERVIEWS WITH YOUNG PEOPLE FOR WORLD DEVELOPMENT INFORMATION DAY 2013
For World Development Information Day 2013, AVERT interviewed a selection of young people from around the globe, getting them to reflect on the HIV/AIDS development challenges in their country.
As supporters of AVERT’s Get Plugged In campaign, our interviewees are part of a network of well-informed young people, aged 18-25, that explore HIV and AIDS issues in our private Get Plugged In forum.
The UN theme for World Development Information Day, celebrated annually on October 24th, concentrates on: “Improving the dissemination of information and the mobilisation of public opinion, particularly among young people…”
Applying this theme to HIV and AIDS, we asked our Get Plugged In members how technology improves access to HIV/AIDS information and awareness of HIV/AIDS development challenges.
See all interviews below.
Angela is from the US, however she has worked in South Africa for the Rural AIDS and Development Action Research ( RADAR), as a Project Coordinator for the Care in the Home Study ( CHoS). She has also worked in Senegal for the Millennium Village Project as the Regional HIV Coordinator and Health Team Assistant.
Well in South Africa with RADAR, since we were already fairly established in the community due to previous projects, our organization was often asked to support other community programs and speak to youth at various schools or events throughout the municipality - about HIV, sexual health, abuse, and available services and prevention. In Senegal, it was more implementation-based. It was a challenge to address the different cultural, religious and language barriers across the countries of West Africa, some that are predominantly Islamic and francophone, while others were English speaking and with traditional beliefs.
In order to reach youth specifically, I've learned from both experiences that you need to make this information relevant and important to youth. Seriously why should they care? Yes it kills millions but what does that have to do with them? Let's be honest, we were all teenagers once, and it's a time where we're trying to "find ourselves", to discover our identity and independence, which also means at this point we are thinking more self-centred. Just handing out pamphlets isn't going to do it. Teens need to be engaged, involved and interested or they'll forget about it as soon as they turn away. A great icebreaker is asking, "What do you think about HIV? What does it cause? What have you heard?" and work from there. It gives an instant understanding into their perspective and what needs to be addressed, while including them in the process.
I’m from the US and here campaigns are "cool" and "trendy", meaning that many young people get involved because of celebrity or iconic branding and marketing. Sadly some of them fail to understand the true purpose and impact but they are at least aware of HIV/AIDS, which is the first step to prevention.
In the US, I think it's to make HIV advocacy beyond a trend for youth - into something meaningful, to be passionate, outraged and excited about. Not just a logo on a t-shirt or sticker, which is the bare minimum of support. However I feel like this issue is something that is cross-cultural and country boundaries. In South Africa, it's the same question of how to get youth to care about HIV, not just know it's out there. And you would think that due to high prevalence and likely personal experiences or interactions with those affected by HIV and AIDS it would be on the forefront of their minds; yet some cultural, religious and societal beliefs push it back. People are still in denial, embarrassed or scared, and that's completely normal. Yet without some true acknowledgment and open dialogue we'll never be able to overcome such obstacles. Seriously, a lot of time we're our own worst enemy.
In the US, definitely social media (Facebook, Twitter, all that jazz), because it reaches the greatest number of people - the problem is it only adds to the transience problem. Something that is a headliner one day, is forgotten the next under the new cutest cat video or celebrity scandal. Great videos or commercials last somewhat longer, can be shared, and go as far make TV talk shows, yet only if provocative or heart wrenching enough. It's the campaigns that encourage actual engaged activism - rallies and community events make the most impact. Especially those that have people living with HIV come to share experiences and provide insight. Celebrity support helps too :)
I would have young people try and experience what it means to be living with HIV, by spending a whole day, or several days, with someone living with HIV. We often think that because antiretrovirals (ARVs) are available, it's not as big a deal. Yet these medications do not alleviate, just sustain. Yes, you can do normal things, but many people I've talked to living with HIV have said they don't wake up feeling good, jumping out of bed. You feel tired but it's bearable and you can certainly achieve. And the regimen is no joke. All this is just the beginning of facing a day where you may face some stigma, expectations, and even some lengthy explanations. This can be lined with fear, embarrassment and even just anger. Young people need to understand it's not as simple as being sick. HIV affects your ENTIRE life and this includes adjusting simply everyday things and relationships you may have never worried about before.
This piece forms part of a collection of inspiring and insightful interviews. 'Reflections on the Epidemic' , a series of interviews from young people for World Development Information Day 2013, tap into the opinions and perspectives of young people on HIV and AIDS from four regions across the globe.
All opinions expressed in 'Reflections on the Epidemic' do not necessarily represent those of AVERT.