Wouter Van Dongen|02.10.2014|News
MTV Staying Alive met the young leaders tackling HIV in Mexico for a new series of mini documentaries

Meet Rubén, a 19-year-old guy from Guadalajara, Mexico, who is one of the founders of youth-led HIV-prevention organisation Jovenes Promotores por la VIHda (Young Promoters of Life). Rubén was diagnosed with HIV when he was only 16 years old.

We’re in Guadalajara to document the story of Rubén and Jovenes Promotores. Guadalajara is one of Mexico’s biggest cities and has a historic city centre filled with colonial buildings, cafés, shops, and people. It seems like a joyful place. However, just a few minutes outside the historic heart of the city, one finds streets filled with teenage sex workers, run down slums, and homeless drug users.

Rubén originally comes from one of these more deprived parts of Guadalajara but now lives in a little apartment on the outskirts of the city, together with his mother and their dog.

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We interview Rubén in his bedroom. He tells us how he found out that he had HIV after a routine check-up and that he’s almost sure he got it through sexual contact but doesn’t know from whom.

As we listen to Rubén’s story, I try to imagine what it must have been like for a 16-year-old boy to receive the news that he’s HIV positive. Teenagers are in the prime of life. They shouldn’t have to worry about their health, they shouldn’t have to face a life of medication. Yet it’s a reality for so many young people out there.

Rubén’s story once again illustrates the importance of good and comprehensive sexual education, something that Rubén says is lacking in Mexico. It’s one of the reasons why he decided to set up Jovenes Promotores, together with a couple of other young people.

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With the support of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, Rubén and his team at Jovenes Promotores are training peer educators about HIV prevention. They visit universities and attend a weekly street festival in the centre of Guadalajara with a safe-sex stand where they organise safe-sex quizzes, give condom demonstrations, and provide people with the opportunity to get tested for HIV for free, on the spot.

The next day we visit Rubén and his team as they talk with young people on the streets of Guadalajara about HIV and safe sex.

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It’s inspiring to see how a young person like Rubén has turned a negative life event into something positive and is trying to reach out to fellow youngsters to help create awareness about an issue that is still very much underexposed in Mexico.

Find out more about our young leaders here.

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