Young people are at #AIDS2016 to learn, and to teach

While celebrities, diplomats, scientists and activists hobnob around the Durban ICC during the International AIDS Conference this week, many young people are excited to be there too. They told The Daily Vox why they are there and what the conference means to them.

Msawakhe Myeza, 28, unemployed, Adams Msawakhe Myeza, 28, unemployed, Adams
[dropcap]”[/dropcap]As a young person I believe that it’s important to gather as much knowledge as possible so that I can stay informed. As much as we may all think we know about HIV/AIDS, the mere fact that we are still judging those who are infected clearly shows how misinformed we are. We are living in a society where people who are HIV-positive are often isolated, stigmatised and rejected. We often don’t realise that the problem is with us and not with them because HIV is no longer a killer disease. Today, I’ve learned that it is up to us to take matters at hand and change the society’s perception when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Particularly among youth because we are the ones who are often too judging yet we don’t even know our own HIV status. There is no logic in laughing at someone just because they are HIV positive, especially if one is uncertain about their own status.

Mutetelemu Kalama, 24, youth trainer, Zambia

Mutetelemu Kalama, 24, youth trainer, Zambia
[dropcap]”[/dropcap]This conference is a platform where people can come up with different ideas and we can actually look back at how far we’ve come. I have seen the progress and I am happy, especially because back in Zambia, people have to come to South Africa in order to access treatment. But I think it’s about time young people come together and embrace HIV because when it was first introduced it was displayed as a monster but people have survived and won the fight against it. At this point, we need more emphasis on young people because they are the ones who have an escalating number of infections. We need to sit and discuss with them and not make policies for them.

Thembelephi ChilizaThembelephi Chiliza, 25, NGO worker, Ixopo
[dropcap]”[/dropcap]I decided to be part of the conference so that I could get an idea of what different NGOs are doing, especially about TB and HIV. So far I’ve learnt that most of the NGOs are working closely with the youth in finding ways to deal with stigma, HIV and TB. For us as the youth, we need to work through HIV/AIDS and learn new ways of protecting ourselves. After all that I learnt here, I want to create a youth club back home that will focus on discussions relating to HIV/AIDS.  I also want to be part of the development that’s currently taking place in different communities as a young person.

Nosizwe Dumo, 23, NGO worker, Cape Town Nosizwe Dumo, 23, NGO worker, Cape Town
[dropcap]”[/dropcap]All I hear the speakers talk about is HIV/AIDS and the resources such as protection for men. They are not considering us lesbian people and we also need access to condoms as lesbians, but it’s hard to access those in some of our communities. I am here today because I want to inform, educate and address some of the issues the lesbian community is faced with. The problem with young people is that they are afraid to come out to platforms and conferences such as this one. We need to be part of every discussion that allows us a chance to voice out our views and concerns.

Sbusiso Myeza Sbusiso Myeza, 19, unemployed, Adams
[dropcap]”[/dropcap]Mostly men don’t take things such as HIV and other related issues such as abortion seriously. We are not considerate of women’s feelings, especially when it comes to relationships. We don’t know what they want and are not willing to seek. Guys go around impregnating girls and forcing them to abort without considering how they might feel and the actual fact that they have a voice. Today I’ve learnt that respect goes hand in hand with selflessness. Also, I learnt about ways that we as young people can go about protecting ourselves and our partners from diseases such as HIV. It’s a good thing that there are conferences such as this one where we get to be educated and informed about numerous things.

Beatrice Phiri, 18,volunteer, ZambiaBeatrice Phiri, 18,volunteer, Zambia
[dropcap]”[/dropcap]As the youth, it is within our responsibility to address issues such as the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. We need to voice out our views and make our own policies. As the youngsters, we need respect and to make our own policies. I have come across quite a number of young speakers who were part of the conference and I was fortunate enough to be part of those youngsters. We need to talk about HIV/AIDS and we need to educate ourselves. It’s very important that even if one is young and sexually active to know that there are ways in which they can protect themselves from diseases. As young people, let us educate and advocate.


Featured image courtesy of the International AIDS Society/Abhi Indrarajan