It was the last day of the youth pre-conference yesterday. This last week I have spent time in different sessions in different topics such as, gaining more scientific knowledge on how the HIV virus attacks your immune system and the different point of access in the body. This knowledge I am going to share with you all in a document soon and it’s something that I really suggest you do reading on as now I understand at which point of the invasion into the cell that ARVs and PEP interact with. Such knowledge allows me to better understand our Medicine Patent Pool’ campaign as I now have the knowledge to understand which drugs interact together and are most important  for the development of new medicines.

The conference was a great opportunity for me to understand how HIV and AIDS programmes are working around the world from other delegate’s stories. One particular workshop we worked on a was a podcasting session. In this we had to create a storyboard for a podcast that would be successful globally. Creating a podcast with the aim to challenge the criminalisation of homosexuality was really hard and raised lots of questions and experiences in different countries of the situation being raised. It seems even though we are all on the same page; have the virus effecting our communities and have the same key populations, every country struggles at different levels with the issue of homosexuality and the criminalisation of homosexuality. It was a real eye opener for me to have personal experiences and stories told in my group about what is happening in different countries. Although our governments and countries work so closely together, as a whole world the issues of criminalisation differ in every country. This conference provided me with a new outlook, that we can’t expect for everyone to be on one page due to our different cultures but we as the same world and for the future of better HIV landscape we have to make governments understand that we should be on the same page about the criminalisation of homosexuality and other key populations to stop HIV in its tracks.

It seemed all the young people at the conference had something to say and a story to tell and the youth force wanted to capture that to ensure we effectively could contribute to the main conference next week. So a declaration of change was created. Throughout the 3 days an online platform was made available for young people at the conference and around the world to contribute their ideas for creating change in the fight on HIV. You can check out our declaration here.

The conference finished with a panel discussion with Mary Otiento (UNFPA), Dr Luiz Loures (UNAIDS), Micheal O’Connor (Global Fund), Dr Aaron Lopata (Office of National AIDS Policy), David Haroz (Office of Global AIDS), Leo Christian Villacorted Lauzon (Advocates for Youth). Ths a chance to make some seriously awesome questions and comments!

Top 5 comments from the discussion:

Phindi Sithole- Spong “I want to know what you thoughts are on the emotional aspect of HIV and not just about condom distribution”.

Youth delegate: “What strategies does the Global Fund have to give youth organisations the money without pushing it through governments who are corrupt and take it?”

Lopata:  “An AIDS free generation is a youth focussed one”.

Lopata: “Focussing on youth is our smartest investment”

Anyway, after all that learning it was time to take action! So straight after the conference we jumped into an activist meeting. These are a chance for any young people to brain storm about anything from the pre-conference they want to take action on and raise awareness about in the conference with the help of other activists. It was so exciting to sit with others and discuss exciting and fun ways we can make some noise on youth issues at the conference. But this was just the beginning we are running the meetings every day in the youth pavilion and want everyone to come join us so we can make noise together.

I’m writing this from a coffee shop next to the National Mall where I have just popped online to fill you guys in on the latest news. I’m on the way from the AIDS quilt that remembers all those who have died from the virus. Now I leave you to attend the youth force sports day to talk to more people about attending our banner making bash. Wish us luck in getting people together. If you know anyone at the conference who is creative or good at selecting music on a ipod to provide the bash with music, tell them to come along to our banner making party at 1676 Irving Street NW #1. Don’t worry I’ll send you the pictures on Sunday, Rachel 🙂