On the 30th Anniversary of World AIDS Day, Advocates for Youth Launches First-Ever National Council of Youth Activists Living with HIV

The new council, ECHO, will focus on eradicating HIV stigma and decriminalizing HIV

WASHINGTON – To continue its mission of championing ALL young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, Advocates for Youth is launching ECHO (Engaging Communities around HIV Organizing), a first-of-its kind council of youth activists living with HIV who are actively organizing online and in their communities.

Young people living with HIV face immense legal and cultural discrimination, and too often, are unable to get the information and resources they need to stay healthy. ECHO is comprised of 10 youth activists who will be provided training and resources from Advocates for Youth to work to combat HIV stigma, decriminalize HIV, and raise awareness online and in their communities.

“It’s our responsibility to listen to the recommendations of young people directly impacted by HIV,” said Louie Ortiz-Fonseca, the founder of ECHO and Advocates for Youth’s Director of LGBTQ Health and Rights. “We must end laws and policies which criminalize people living with HIV, and make sure every young person living with HIV is cared for and valued. ”

ECHO council members will use the social media campaign #MyStoryOutLoud, peer education, storytelling and media outreach to raise awareness of the interconnection between HIV disparity, racism, homophobia, and transphobia, and advocate for the inclusion of youth most impacted by HIV in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies that affect their health and well being.

“I never thought that I would be doing intentional work around HIV awareness until I was diagnosed as positive in April 2018,” said Toraje Heyward, an ECHO council member from Georgia. “Raising awareness surrounding HIV stigma, encouraging others to get tested, and having conversations around healthy sex practices are ways that I combat the status quo every day.”

The launch of ECHO coincides with AIDS Awareness Week and Advocates for Youth’s new YouTube series in partnership with the MAC AIDS Fund, Kikis with Louie, which aims to normalize conversations surrounding HIV stigma, identity, consent, and more.

“The current administration is causing great harm with funding cuts for HIV programs, and doubling-down on ineffective abstinence-only programs which spread ignorance and stigma. Young people won’t allow it. They’re stepping up and leading the movement to end HIV stigma,” said Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth.   

Council members are participating in in-person and digital actions across the country this week to raise awareness and mobilize people to support youth living with HIV. Each day, the campaign will highlight a different theme and integral issue.

See the full list of themes below:


  • Monday, November 26: The Right to Live Free from Oppression – Pledge to challenge racism, homophobia and other forms of oppression on campus, in your communities, and family.
  • Tuesday, November 27: The Right to Education – Pledge to share accurate and factual information about HIV.
  • Wednesday, November 28: The Right to Prevention – Pledge to share at least one HIV testing location on social media.
  • Thursday, November 29: The Right to Treatment and Care – Pledge to listen and center young people living HIV.
  • Friday, November 30: The Right to Live Without Criminalization, Discrimination, and Stigma – Pledge to educate your community about the harms of HIV criminalization in your area.

For more information contact Emma Thomas, emma.thomas@berlinrosen.com, 202-800-8169.