GenEndIt Youth Steering Group member Ogonna recently attended the International AIDS Conference in Canada. In this blog, Ogonna writes about her participation and experiences.
Being a young person, I was privileged to experience my first International AIDS Conference not only as a delegate but also as an activity organizer.
When I first learned that I would be coordinating the activities of the Youth Force, I was excited both excited and worried about the opportunity as the conference was less than four months away. However, International AIDS Conference turned out to be quite an unforgettable experience for me-definitely in a good way.
The conference brought together over 55 young people from 12 organizations over the world. We worked to ensure that young people, an important stakeholder in the HIV response, played an active role at the conference and that their voices were heard loud and clear.
Creating an informative youthful space.
We set up a youth-friendly space and organized speaker sessions, workshops, networking sessions, and fun, interactive games and activities. Young people also co-drafted a Youth Declaration with a set of recommendations for governments, agencies and partners to act on.
Meeting all these wonderful people in-person was a major highlight for me. We were glad to see everything come together beautifully despite the time zone differences and all the challenges that came with planning virtually.
It was rather disappointing that a number of young people from the global south were unable to obtain a visa to attend the conference. These are people who had worked really hard to organize activities at the conference, people who were looking forward to sharing their stories, learning from others or advocating for important issues.
No Visa No Voice.
This inspired the #NoVisaNoVoice campaign by the Youth Force at the conference and I hope that we were able to amplify the voices of those who were unable to attend and call attention to discriminatory policies that hinder access.
Organizing a variety of activities at the conference barely left me with enough time to explore most of the components of the conference but I tried to make the most of any free time I had.
It was really inspiring to see the incredible work being done in other parts of the world, to hear about ground-breaking research and to listen to the amazing stories and experiences of others. It was also important to come to terms with how the world has lost some ground in the fight against HIV over the past few years and how far we still have to go.
Ogonna is a Project Coordinator at LetsStopAIDS, a Canadian youth-focused charity that inspires young people to take action related to HIV awareness within their communities. She has recently been coordinating the activities of YouthForce at the AIDS 2022 International Conference in Montreal, bringing together youth from different organizations to plan and implement activities that emphasize the key role that young people have in HIV advocacy. Ogonna is a trained doctor with a keen interest in developing public health projects that address the needs of young people in the HIV epidemic through meaningful engagement.