Contributor: Natalia Cales
Since the opening ceremony of the XVII International AIDS Conference on August 3, over 25,000 people have traveled from around the world in response to the call for Universal Action Now! Many delegates attending have been infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, while others really just want to make a difference and contribute to the response to this pandemic. Numerous influential global leaders are also in attendance addressing many issues as they relate to treatment, education, prevention, awareness, funding, etc.
As I walk around the Mexico City Banamex Center and the Global Village, I am overwhelmed with the number of sessions, activities, exhibitors and press conferences focusing on the epidemic among women and girls. It is very evident that many have recognized the need to address this universal problem, but are there any solutions in the near future? While attending several sessions, the overall goal has been to have more young women at the planning and decision-making table to make these changes a reality. As a young woman, I think this is a great start to meeting our needs.
It’s also very encouraging to meet other young women, who have been infected and affect by HIV, share their experiences and passion in responding to the epidemic. Many of them have committed their lives to increasing HIV awareness and education in their native countries and abroad. From listening to Keren Gonzales, 13 years old from Honduras, who serves as the Editor of Liavecities, a UNICEF-funded bi-monthly magazine directed at children ages 8-12 who have been affected by HIV and AIDS, to having a straight-up conversation with Marvelyn Brown, 24 years old from the United States, about her personal experiences of living with HIV since the age of 19, to releasing her upcoming autobiography, The Naked Truth. And then there is Awuor, 22 years old and positive, who coordinates HIV prevention programs for the Young Positive Initiative project in Kenya. All of these young women continue to have HOPE that better days are ahead for us in as we respond to HIV. And, in listening to them, I truly believe they have the power to make many changes to the current “face of HIV and AIDS”.
Overall, my IAC experience has been very positive and I look forward to meeting more Young Women on the Move!
Kind regards until next time!
Natalia Cales, YWCA USA