By Rachel Bowley, YWCA of Aotearoa New Zealand and Florencia Fernandez, YWCA of Uruguay
On July 13, 2010 we both arrived separately at the Bringittenau Youth Hostel in Vienna, Austria in the middle of a European heat wave. It was hot and sticky, there was no air-conditioning and the bedroom windows would not open. However, the energy was high and the venue overflowing with youth activists ready to ´Make it Happen´ and to discuss young people’s involvement and commitment to HIV and AIDS education, prevention and awareness at the International AIDS Conference 2010.
After locating the YWCA girls and navigating the Wien underground train system, we arrived at the Youth Force Pre-Conference at the Medical University of Vienna on 14 July 2010. It was overwhelming to be surrounded by the diverse youth delegates who displayed such energy and commitment to the cause, and who hailed from over 90 different countries.
While our home countries of Uruguay and New Zealand are far apart and separated by several oceans, we were surprised to find out that our YWCAs shared similar challenges in relation to HIV and AIDS education and awareness.
Individually, we both identified the need to explore education and prevention opportunities for the YWCAs of our countries while we attended the pre-conference. We found the workshops on Peer Education most interesting, as this was a strategy and HIV and AIDS education and programming opportunity that neither of us had heard of before.
On Tuesday July 15, 2010, Y-Peer held a workshop, ´Peer Education Strategies´, which defined Peer Education and explained the advantages and disadvantages of this approach. A second workshop held on Wednesday 16 July explored Peer Education in more depth, by sharing Y-Peer´s Peer Education Standards Checklist. This is a standardised checklist which can assist organisations such as the World YWCA in establishing, assessing and sustaining peer education programmes in our local communities.
A presentation on ´Evaluation and Improvement of HIV and AIDS Peer Education Projects´ by the International Federation of Medical Students (IFMSA) supported the Y-Peer presentations. IFMSA provided us with an overview of how to conduct statistical, results-based research on Peer Education programmes, to assist with funding proposals and to provide evidence of knowledge, attitudinal and behavioural change in our communities.
We are both inspired and motivated to find out more about Peer Education while at the main conference, and hope to bring back examples of successful Peer Education projects to the YWCA´s of Uruguay and New Zealand.
As the YouthForce Pre-Conference slogan states, we are ready to ´MAKE IT HAPPEN´ and educate the young women in our communities on HIV and AIDS.