Class of 2013-2014
In my first 6 months of the Global Health Corp Fellowship, while placed with Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, I have gotten immersed in programs about the eradication of HIV/AIDS. I am now working closely with a group of young people, known as Ariel Ambassadors, and it’s a great honor to understand what it means to live with HIV/AIDS as a young person. As a Communications Officer, I am working with these young people to develop the boldness and courage to tell their stories in a stigmatized society, and am learning from them what it really is like to be a teenager in boarding school with (pre) Anti-Retro Therapy schedules to keep up on.
They are such an inspiration!
I wish there was more we could do for young people in schools. The cry is so loud and Ugandan schools are not equipped to fight alongside other actors in the HIV/AIDS fight. Young people have to decide between telling a head teacher, a school nurse (if present) or a treatment buddy. But no where has it been made clear what the role of schools and other educational institutions are in the fight against HIV.
On average, a young person who goes to boarding school will spend 75% of the calendar year at school – that is where their life is lived! That is also where we do not meet them, at the point of their physical (and biological) transformation. How I wish we were there. How I wish “youth friendly centers” were modeled after school clinics and “sick bays”. I would like to see programs designed and intended to target schools, and other places (like University Hostels) where young people are feeding from an information pool that is massively contaminated with stigma laced language, and total misinformation about HIV/AIDS.
I would like to be more certain about where a young gal in S2 goes to receive her medication, should she be in boarding school. I would like to be more certain that HIV Positive young people in hostels around universities live above the fear of stigmatization, and live as a voice of reason in an age group clouded by a lack of accurate information. I would like to see high schools in Kampala (and indeed Uganda) preemptively institutionalize SRH Services and Education, because when we are not there for that sexual debut, we would rather these young people had all the information and tools they need to protect themselves from infection, disease and unwanted pregnancies.
No I am not just a health freak, in fact I am an ICT professional with a passion for health. But if I want to see an HIV free generation in my country, I have to open my eyes to the reality, and marry that with what my hands and feet can transform – and my heart goes out to young people in this nation. So there is where I would like to move, shake, and bring about some change.
And Young people, like you, can do the same. There must be something in your community that you can affect. There must be a health injustice that keeps you from dreaming in the night. There must be something we can work on together. Find it. Share it. Solve it.
Heal Your Community.