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Spring 2015 Newsletter

National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

April 10 2015 was the third observance of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) – a day to educate the public about the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people as well as highlight the amazing work young people are doing across the country to fight the HIV & AIDS epidemic. And they turned out in force!

Young people and their allies hosted over 50 events nationwide including an HIV testing tour by Real TALKDC; Positive Transformations: A compilation of performances centered around the HIV and AIDS epidemic by Thomas Davis; and Stomping Out HIV, an annual high school step show competition where young people express themselves while teaching their peers about health promotion and disease prevention specific to health issues affecting their age group.

Activists Brittany Brathwaite, Kahlib Barton, Kimberly Huggins and Nicole Holmes gained new proclamations recognizing NYHAAD in Brooklyn, NY; Denver, CO and Madison, IL. These proclamations not only help raise awareness of NYHAAD but can be used to hold officials accountable for supporting policies which support young people in HIV prevention and treatment efforts.   

Young Women of Color Leadership Council Member Brittany and the city of Brooklyn’s proclamation in support of NYHAAD.


According to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, three in four youth have not spoken about HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases much, if at all, in the last year. This year, Advocates for Youth partnered with Greater Than AIDS to encourage young people to use the power of their voices to #SpeakOutHIV on #NYHAAD. https://youtu.be/N8uMBRqQFMA?list=PLpP8G9eeAp-lbxD7wiy2F6vZFnFVT8Tbf

On April 7th, Congresswoman Barbara Lee hosted a press call with Dr. Nadia Dowshen from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and three of our NYHAAD Youth Ambassadors: Manuel Venegas, Anndrekia Maha, and Brandon King. Following the call, the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee hosted a Congressional Briefing on Young People and HIV. The briefing featured remarks from Dr. Stephanie Zaza, Director of the Division for Adolescent and School Health, Kahlib Barton and Uzoamaka Okoro- two of our NYHAAD Youth Ambassadors.

The Centers for Disease Control Division of Adolescent and School Health Communications team organized a Twitter chat with Advocates for Youth, AIDS.gov, Dr. Zaza and the MAC AIDS Fund. On April 8th, you all helped #NYHAADChat trend on Twitter!

The push to engage young people in the response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic doesn’t end on April 10th. Sign and share our petition asking President Obama to prioritize young people in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy! We’ll be delivering the petitions at the next Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) meeting.

The 1 in 3 Spring Week of Action: Artivism at Work!

On April 13th the 1 in 3 campaign launched its “Week of Artivism,” a week of student activism dedicated to using art as a tool to broaden the conversation around abortion stigma. Ninety colleges from around the country created pop up sticker art displays featuring real people’s abortion stories. Campuses were provided with a roll of sticker art as well as toolkits with tips on generating media and general best practices.

Student activists used the stickers in a variety of ways. Some created large displays in high-traffic areas, while others placed the stickers widely around campus in various unexpected locations. The goal, however, remained the same – to reach new audiences and expand the conversation around abortion stigma. One student at Colorado Mountain College said that the stickers “got people talking and sharing their stories.” She even noted that she heard about a math class “ending up in a debate for the 3 hour duration of the class about abortion” and that by the end of it, many people seemed to have changed their minds. Another student in San Antonio said that “most viewers were surprised at how common abortion is and were mostly shocked by the 1 in 3 statistic, which isn’t widely known in Texas.”

The Week of Artivism also got coverage in Mic.com, giving praise to our student activists around the country. Campaign director, Julia Reticker-Flynn was quoted saying that this student activism aims to create “a new culture, one that is ending the stigma and shame around abortion and centering the conversation around peoples lives.” In addition, both Bitch Media and Feministing, included the Week of Artivism in their weekly news round ups.

If you are interested in using art to end the silence and stigma around abortion, consider hosting the 1 in 3 play, “Out of Silence,” for free on your campus. Sign up here.

Advocates Engages at the Commission on Population and Development 

Members of the UN Permanent Mission to Pakistan with Advocates’ Girl Engagement Advisory Board member from Pakistan. 

 Advocates for Youth staff and members of our Girl Engagement Advisory Board from Egypt, Nepal and Pakistan and our International Youth Leadership Council attended the 48th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) held this month in New York. It was a great opportunity to get out the message about the importance of including girls in the world’s development agenda!

The focus of this year’s CPD was on integrating population issues into the post-2015 development agenda.

While at CPD, Advocates helped organize a youth caucus in collaboration with IPPF, IWHC, CHOICE and Rutgers WP. Approximately 60 young people from civil society and country delegations attended the caucus. The caucus provided a space for youth delegates and advocates to map out country position and create a strategy plan for engagement of country delegations in attendance at CPD. Some of the main issues discussed at the caucus included the current status of indicators which will be used to measure the progress of the new Sustainable Development Goals, country positions on the draft text released by the Chair and the inclusion of youth specific language in the draft. As a result of the caucus, youth delegates from over a dozen countries developed lobbying strategies and recommended language for direct mission engagement.

Advocates and its Girl Engagement Advisory Board members also met missions and delegates from Egypt, Nepal, and Pakistan. When meeting with members of the UN Permanent Mission to Pakistan, Advocates’ Girl Engagement Advisory Board member from Pakistan and staff discussed the need to prioritize young people in sexual and reproductive health policy and shared Our Moment campaign materials. 

Advocates’ Girl Engagement Advisory Board Members from Pakistan, Nepal, and Egypt, and International Youth Council Member from the United States with UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, wearing the Our Moment Campaign Scarf.

  • distributed Our Moment Campaign materials to other country and civil society delegates and girl advocates to raise awareness and advocate for the need to prioritize girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, education safety, economic security, and citizenship within the post-2015 development agenda.

While the CPD was on track to emerge with a resolution, the meeting culminated unexpectedly without one. On the final day, the chair distributed a balanced text reflective of country positions but to everyone’s shock, this text was withdrawn by the chair within two hours of its distribution, leaving no time for governments to review and provide inputs. Concluding the CPD, which was focused on the post-2015 development agenda, without a consensus document and only months left to secure the new Sustainable Development Goals, is very disappointing. Advocates, along with other civil society groups have signed onto a statement urging that in the future, the CPD serve as a genuine space for negotiations and consensus building. Further, it is critical to make sure that the post-2015 development agenda negotiations do not follow a similar path.

Advocates Travels to Rural Burkina Faso to Conduct Sexuality Education Training for Primary School Teachers in Collaboration with Mwangaza Action

Advocates and its partner organizations, Mwangaza Action, in collaboration with the Association des Jeunes pour le Développement de Leo, continue efforts in Leo, located the province of Sissili in Burkina Faso, to improve access to sexual and reproductive health education and services for youth. As a result of ongoing community engagement in this work, last year teachers approached project partners to request support for implementing sexuality education at the primary school level. In response, project partners surveyed teachers and students to inform the development of sexuality education lesson plans. Partners subsequently identified priority content, informed by these findings as well by the International Guidance on Sexuality Education. Advocates subsequently updated and translated lesson plans from its life skills education resources entitled, When I’m Grown, resulting in 18 lesson plans for ages 10-12 The lesson plans were reviewed by curriculum developers and in March, staff conducted a training for a total of 33 primary school teachers from 11 schools (three from each school) drawing from the training module Advocates is concurrently developing for East and Southern Africa but inclusive of the lesson plans developed for Leo.

Teachers enjoyed the training and were actively engaged in practicing the delivery of the lesson plans given the practicum-based nature of the training. Follow-up to the training will include integrating feedback into the lesson plans provided by the teachers and seeking funding to train remaining teachers within the 11 schools as well as teachers from neighboring school districts, which teachers and district-level education leaders have since specifically requested. Project partners will also be working with curriculum developers to explore integration of the lesson plans into existing pedagogic materials. All 33 trained teachers are initiating the delivery of the lesson plans using extra time available with students with the goal of completing all lessons by the end of the school year. Project partners will provide ongoing support to the teachers in addition to small seed grant money to cover local transportation needed to conduct the lessons. Lastly, as per the teachers’ request, Advocates will be developing lesson plans for students aged 12-14 that build off of those already developed for students aged 10-12 . 

New Edition of 21 Proms now available!

In 2007, 21 authors came together to write the book 21 Proms, a collaboration of stories about the ”most important night of high school.” John Green, David Levithan, Jacqueline Woodson, and many more share funny and touching pieces about prom. And the best part was, a portion of the proceeds from book sales went to Advocates for Youth! Now, there’s great news: 21 Proms has been rereleased for 2015. Support Advocates and read some great short stories too! 

Come work with us!

Do you have demonstrated experience in designing, implementing, and evaluating HIV/STD prevention programs for LGBTQ youth of color, in particular black and Latino young men who have sex with men? If so, we’re looking for you! Advocates for Youth is hiring a Senior Program Manager, LGBTQ Health and Rights. Learn more and apply! 

Policy Updates

U.S. Foreign Policy

  • On Tuesday, March 3, Advocates for Youth and Ipas, in collaboration with Representatives Lee, Schakowsky, Wasserman Schultz, and Esty, hosted “Access to Safe Abortion & Contraception: Vital for Young Women Globally,” a congressional briefing. The briefing featured speakers including Urooj Arshad, our Associate Director for International Youth Health and Rights, and Allison Pfotzer, a member of Advocates’ International Youth Leadership Council and Girl Engagement Advisory Board, and focused on the role of U.S. foreign policy in ensuring access to contraception and safe abortion for young women around the globe.
  • Members of Advocates’ Girl Engagement Advisory Board, International Youth Leadership Council, and Advocates staff traveled to New York in March for the Commission on the Status of Women and again in April for the Commission on Population and Development. The team aimed to elevate the issue of adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights in these spaces and advocate with country delegations for progressive and inclusive negotiated outcome documents. In the meantime, negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda are ongoing. Advocates’ policy staff is working in New York and in Washington, DC to ensure that young people’s needs and rights are represented in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Federal Policy

  • On April 14th, the U.S. Senate passed a $200 billion package of healthcare funding legislation (HR 2), by an overwhelming vote of 92 to 8. HR 2 includes numerous health care provisions, including a two-year extension of the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) at the current funding level, $75 million per year, through FY 2017. While we applaud the supporters in both the House and Senate for their continued support of medically accurate and evidence-based efforts to equip young people with the sexual health information they need and deserve, we are disappointed that this compromise bill package also included a two-year extension of the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) program. Even more disappointing is that HR 2 actually increases funding for AOUM, bringing its annual funding to $75 million. An additional policy rider also requires unobligated Title V AOUM funds to be made available to states implementing programs that adhere to the A-H definition of “abstinence education”, instead of returning the funds to the general treasury as was done before. Advocates is incredibly disappointed and alarmed by the wasteful funding increase and extension of ineffective AOUM programs.
  • Advocates was pleased to work with Congresswoman Barbara Lee to reintroduce the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA) (H.R. 1706), a bill that would push Congress in supporting a more comprehensive approach to sex education, and look forward to supporting Senator Cory Booker’s introduction of the Senate companion (previously S. 372) in the coming weeks.
  • On April 9th, in honor of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), Advocates for Youth, in collaboration with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, hosted “Youth & HIV”, a congressional briefing. The briefing featured remarks from Dr. Stephanie Zaza, Director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), as well as youth leaders on the state of the HIV & AIDS epidemic among young people, the need for action, and the role of young people as partners in the fight against AIDS.
  • In addition, Advocates for Youth was happy to work with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Richard Blumenthal to introduce and promote congressional resolutions in support of NYHAAD. 

State Policy

  • With all 50 state legislatures in session during 2015, we’ve seen a total of 791 reproductive and sexual health/rights –related bills introduced across the country in just a few short months. Almost every state that has been in session has introduced some type of provision relating to restricting access to abortion services, 332 to be specific. Thus far, 53 abortion restrictions have been approved by at least one legislative chamber and 9 have been enacted. Many of the new abortion restrictions already enacted would either limit the use of medication abortion (Arkansas and Idaho) or ban abortion at 20 weeks postfertilization (West Virginia).
  • Legislators in 16 states have introduced state versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a RFRA bill into law in late March, provoking an enormous public outcry and boycott efforts (which led the Governor and legislature to reevalute the law). The potential impact of these religious freedom/liberty bills on both discrimination against LGBT communities and restricting access to contraceptive coverage (and reproductive health more broadly) is a major concern for Advocates and we will continue to track this trend throughout 2015 legislative sessions.

CAMI State Activist Highlights:

  • Mississippi Youth Council (MYCouncil) had their inaugural annual Youth Advocacy Day on March 18th. MYCouncil members organized 7 meetings with their legislators to discuss their work to get language added to Governor Phil Bryant’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month proclamation that recognizes the need to provide young people with accurate and complete sexual and reproductive health information.
  • Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth (AA4HY) held their 5th Youth Advocacy Day on April 9thbringing in over 40 young people to lobby on HB252 – a bill that would strike the homophobic language from the current sex education law and push for safer schools for all young people. 


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