The XVIII International AIDS conference

The XVIII International AIDS conference last week in Vienna is probably one of the most eye opening situations I have been in, in my life.During thewhole week I have been in a lot of meetingswith people with all types of lifestyles and backgrounds -heterosexuals, transgender, sex workers, doctors, teachers, activists, lawyers, the 42ndPresident of the United states of America Bill Clinton… only to mention a few.

In all the meetings I attended I felt like I’m all alone, like I’m the only one thinking different. Most of the talks I have been in have focused on the means to provide the most marginalized and helpless people with short-term solutions and not addressing the cause of their problems, trying to help them exiting their situation of distress. Taking the example of drug addiction, instead of working on changing the people’s behaviour, the focus was on providing clean needles to the drug users and there are now funds being given for this specific purpose. In my opinion, we have to implement a person-centred solution which will make it a more lasting solution.I believe there is a change we as young people and also asWYA members can make :in my experience as a committee member of the WYA Kenya chapter, when we focus on the persons and teach them to respect themselves and find work, I know that benefits them as a holistic individual and gives them fulfilment.

There was also a youth meeting on ‘Sex and sexuality: that mainly focused on pleasure’. It was interesting to hear from all the panellists since they all had diverse backgrounds, however they all had one only point, that young people have the right to enjoy sex, and that the conditions need to be favourable for them to practice this right. They talked about the right to enjoy pleasure no matter your gender and lifestyle, through pornography and other preferences. I know that sex education for young people plays an important role in the fight against AIDs butwhat came to my mind at that point is that as young people there is more to “US” than sexual pleasure: we have creativity, talents, skills, responsibilities and gifts that make us who we are.

The screening of the movie “Shuga”, a 3 part documentary on youth behaviour in Kenya aimed at the youth was something I appreciated very much at the conference. The findings from the show throughout youth in Nairobi showed that more youth showed less interest in participating in concurrent sexual relationships and also went to get tested for HIV/AIDs.

During the conference I really enjoyed meeting and working in an international delegation, with Marie-Caroline, the Directorof WYA for Europe; Luz, an intern at the European office from Costa Rica and Kellen, a WYA member from New York.

Hannah Ondiek, WYA delegate at the XVIII International AIDS conference in Vienna and Kenya chapter committee member