This World AIDs Day, we’re putting a super bright spotlight on young people around the world who are working to end HIV.
Today is International World AIDs Day– a day where we remember those who’ve lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses, unite in solidarity with the estimated 36.7 million people around the world who are living with HIV right now and put a spotlight on those who are working toward making HIV history!
Over the past 20 years we’ve seen so much progression with HIV knowledge, treatment and to be honest, we just understand the virus so much better! While we’ve moved forward enormously, there have been massive levels of inequality from the wider progress. AIDs is now the second biggest killer of young people globally, AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death of women between the ages of 15-44 and young women (10-24 years old) are twice as likely to get infected with HIV as young men the same age.
That’s why young people all over the world are working around the clock to end HIV. Young people are most likely to be infected and at a grassroots level they’re equipped with knowledge about their peers and they really know how to best tackle the HIV epidemic in their communities—they just get it! That’s why we think, well, we know that they’re best suited to end HIV in their communities.
One of the grantees that we support, AID4Girls was just fed up of the gender inequalities that they saw in their community. Based in Koforidua, Ghana they realized that many young women and girls don’t have access to information about HIV or how to prevent infection. AID4Girls have used their MTV Staying Alive grant to help decrease teenage pregnancy rates, keep girls in school and have even seen a rise in the number of girls that go on to secondary education!
Over the past 20 years we have had the honor to support some truly remarkable young people. They live daily lives that we cannot begin to imagine, working in environments and carrying out roles that here in the UK, we would only expect an adult to play. For example, Gift is the leader of Circus Zambia, a youth led organization based in Lusaka, Zambia. In 2017, MTV Staying Alive started supporting their ‘Clown for Condoms’ project where they use Circus to challenge taboos relating to HIV/AIDs.
For many of our grantees, carrying out their HIV focused projects is followed by uncertainty and insecurity within their communities where HIV is still highly stigmatized—but they are real trailblazers! We support grantees like Yaariyan in India who work on LGBT related projects where LGBT communities still face a lot of discrimination and prejudice.
This year we were also super excited to secure funding from Comic Relief to continue working with one of our previous Kenyan grantees, MAAYGO. With this money we are able to work with them for four more years while they work on the ground in Kisumu on behalf of MTV Staying Alive.
Women and girls, young people and LGBT communities are largely affected by the HIV epidemic; we also shed a light on and support organisations working with prisoners. HIV prevention programmes are rarely made available to inmates, and a lot of prisoners with HIV don’t have access to treatments. In countries like Ukraine and Tanzania we support organizations who work in prisons. If not for these organizations, inmates would not have access to key information.
One story that really moved us is about a young man from Ukraine who thought his life was over because of his HIV+ status. He received support from the Penitentiary Initiative based in Ukraine, they use creative performances to educate male prisoners about HIV– “He got involved in the theater performances we provide to make his daughter proud and show that his life means more than his status and taking drugs”.
Globally, there are inequalities in the HIV infection and mortality rates and so many communities around the world still experience stigma and discrimination because of the virus. Working together and supporting grassroots organisations around the world is key in ending the HIV epidemic.