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December 2009 iYAN Newsletter

December iYAN

Advocates’ International Youth Activist Network (iYAN) consists of youth activists and adult allies from low and middle-income countries who are working to influence policies and programs in their countries and internationally to support improved youth reproductive and sexual health. Members of the iYAN connect to share information about their work; are provided information about scholarships and networking opportunities; get up-to-date information on downloadable advocacy materials and tool kits; and receive a monthly newsletter with information on advocacy, youth activism, and mobilization on important issues like sex education, access to contraception, and prevention of adolescent maternal mortality and HIV.

Sharing Our Passion

What A Success: World AIDS Week Blogathon!

Many of you know that December 1st is World AIDS Day–a day for individuals from all parts of the world to come together in solidarity to bring attention to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. This year’s theme was “Universal Access and Human Rights.”

Advocates for Youth commemorated the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day (WAD) by helping organize and attending events in communities and on university campuses, educating decision-makers, and launching this year’s World AIDS Day Blog-a-thon. The Blog-a-thon was hosted on Advocates’ youth activist website, Amplify. Youth activists from all over the world blogged on as a part of the global movement of young people fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Over 45 blogs were posted, including personal reflections about how HIV and AIDS has affected our lives, experiences young people have faced working towards change in their communities, and policies affecting the health of nations and regions around the world.

To check out the blogs posted in this year’s World AIDS Day Blog-a-thon, click here.

Here are some featured blogs from the World AIDS Day Blog-a-thon:

Challenges and Vision in NIgeria
By Kiki

A young girl stood up and said “if my boyfriend refuses to use a condom, I should have the liberty to use a female condom that is affordable and accessible.” This makes a lot of sense but how can women stand up for themselves when it comes to having protected sex? According to the United Nations agency, one in five deaths among women in this age group (15-44) are linked to unsafe sex throughout the world. Read More

World Aids Day 2009: We Remember, We Support, We Educate!
By kirbygirl87

Today, many organizations, companies, and activist, took the time to raise money, collect donations, contribute to the cause, and educate those who are mis-informed or who are completely un-educated when it comes to this disease.
Today we celebrate World Aids Day by inspiring, educating, and empowering those who are still fighting, those who are supporting, and those who lost their lives trying. Read more

There’s always so much more to do…
By ChicaRocky23

Are we effectively using all the media we have to transmit the message of HIV/AIDS and World Aids Day.. as a matter of fact, are were using it to transmit the right messages? positive messages? Facebook has just reached over 350 million users. How have we been utilizing that link to so many people? What more can we do here?

WAD 2009 has come and gone, and we’ve done a lot, seen a lot, heard a lot, but “there’s always so much more to do”…. so, where do we go from here? Read more

Supporting youth participation at the 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Beijing, China, 17-20 October 2009
By Rose, Regional Director of Asia Pacific Alliance

Based on successes and lessons learned from work in 2007, the Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA) worked to strengthen, improve, and expand youth activities at the fifth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCSRHR), was held from October 17-20, 2009, in Beijing, China.

Through the creation of Leadership Youth Commitment Desks at the Youth Space, and through a Skill Building Workshops on advocacy, APA aimed to increase support for the neglected needs of young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights in Asia and the Pacific. Representatives of member organizations and partners, including youth and adult experts, formed an APA Task Force for Youth. The APA Task Force for Youth is a group of organizations and individuals from Asia and the Pacific working together to advance the youth agenda of the ICPD. APA collaborated with other youth and youth groups such as the International Youth Steering Committee of APCSRH and a local youth committee in China to make it most successful.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Working for Universal Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights: Building on the ICPD Platform of Action (PoA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

The timing of this conference represented an exciting opportunity to reflect on past successes and determine future directions. 2009 marks the 15th anniversary of the ICPD Program of Action (PoA). While young people’s needs are one of the five key areas outlined for the ICPD +15 review process, it must be clear that the needs of young people are still not being fully met. Next year – 2010 – will mark the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight MDGs increasingly intersect with youth sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. It is critical that the momentum for working on sexual and reproductive health and rights increases as work towards achieving the MDGs continues. APA fulfils a specific advocacy niche for the 5th APCRSHR, particularly as it brings together NGOs and government development agencies from donor countries. APA members use a diverse set of advocacy and research tools to influence concrete outcomes and commitments for greater achievement of the ICPD Program of Action and the MDGs.

The youth commitment desk at the Conference represented an innovative advocacy concept and opportunity to expand youth participation. It also placed a spotlight on youth issues. APA collaborated with other youth stakeholders to ensure young participants were fully involved in activities around the Leadership Commitment Desk. APA Task Force members believed it was crucial that SRHR commitments to young people are made by adult participants, including government officials and parliamentarians, community leaders, policy makers, and donors during the 5th APCRSHR. In planning for a commitment desk, APA drew on successes and lessons learned from previous conferences,
such as the International AIDS Conference in 2008, the International Conference on HIV/AIDS and STIs in Africa in 2008, and the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and The Pacific (ICAAP).

As a final result, young people who attended the Conference collected 167 written commitments. The active involvement of young people was acknowledged and mentioned in several formal sessions including the closing session. Commitments made at the 5th APCRSHR provided opportunities and entry points for future advocacy, beyond the APCSRHR, as the commitments can be used for leverage to obtain further progressive action. It will be critical to ensure that commitments are followed-up after the conference and transferred into action. APA will follow-up the commitments, which are opportunities and entry points for future advocacy in action, by linking young people who were present at the Conference to their national policymakers who have made a commitment.

To learn about Asia Pacific Alliance, click here: www.asiapacificalliance.org

What’s Going On at Advocates for Youth?

Success! United States-HIV Travel Ban Overturned
By Emily Bridges, Director of Public Information Services

Through the efforts of young people all over the world, with hundreds of emails and phone calls to Congressional offices, the United States-HIV travel ban has been lifted!

The travel ban on people living with HIV and AIDS was a discriminatory policy maintained by the United States government that automatically denied entry into the United States to non-U.S. citizens (otherwise eligible for entry) on the basis of their HIV-positive status. If a non-citizen was found traveling into the U.S. with HIV medication, they were arrested and placed on a flight home.

The US’s travel ban was controversial because there is no scientific or public health rationale for barring those with HIV from entering the country, since the virus is not spread by casual contact. The U.S. was one of only about a dozen countries with these regulations. The ban also meant that the important biennial International AIDS Conference could not be held in the United States. Now, it has been announced that the 2012 International AIDS Conference will finally be held in the United States.

The ban was created by the late Senator Jesse Helms and passed by Congress in 1987. Once passed it entered something of a legal limbo because it was both a law and a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regulation–both Congress and the President had to act in order to remove it.

Congress removed the statutory (legislative) travel ban through passage of the legislation that reauthorized the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in late 2008, and then President Bush signed that law. And, on October 30, 2009, President Obama announced that the ban had been lifted.

Advocates for Youth applauds the efforts of Congress, former President Bush, President Obama, and advocates around the nation in ending the HIV travel ban.

Let’s Work Together for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth Rights

Are you an organization working for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) youth in your country and internationally?

Are you an activist who’s interested in the recognition of sexual diversity and advocacy for the right to all-inclusive comprehensive sex education?

Are you or your organization interested in working with Advocates for Youth on GLBT rights and advocacy?

Let us know!

GLBT youth face tremendous difficulties growing up in a society where heterosexuality is often presented as the only acceptable orientation, and homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender are regarded as deviant. Research suggests that homophobia and heterosexism greatly contribute to higher rates of suicide, violence victimization, risk behavior for HIV infection, and substance abuse among GLBT youth as compared to their heterosexual peers. In recent years, however, a number of promising programs have been established to help GLBT youth gain the skills and support they need to live healthy lives in societies that largely reject them.

Advocates for Youth is interested in working with you! We are interested in learning more about the challenges GLBT youth face in your country and what we can do, together, to address these challenges!

Contact Mimi Melles, Manager of the International Youth Speak Out project at mimi@advocatesforyouth.org with questions and comments!

My Voice Counts!

Be one of the first 10 iYAN members to submit an essay and WIN a notebook mailed to you from Advocates for Youth
YOUR voice is an essential part of what makes this newsletter a SUCCESS. Please submit your stories to share with other youth activists from around the world! If you are one of the first 10 iYAN members to submit an essay that follows the guilelines below, you will WIN a blue Advocates for Youth notebook and pen (to write more essays, of course! ) .

Here are the guidelines for writing an essay:
Keep your essay to no more than 500 words.
Use language that is simple and easy for non-native English speakers to read.
Write about sexual and reproductive issues that you care about and/or what you are doing to make a difference. Share your experiences working on sexual and reproductive health issues and policies—tell your story. What’s going on with access to contraception and family planning services for youth, abortion, gender disparities, maternal mortality, traditional harmful practices, HIV/AIDS, stigma and homophobia, etc..? What are the challenges facing young people in your country? What are the challenges for you as an activist? Why did you get involved in this movement to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for young people? What is working to improve programs and policies and young people’s sexual and reproductive health?

Also, please note that: If you have a photo, would like us to include it with your essay, and can send it via email, please do! It’s okay if you do not have a photo, but we would like to bring a face to your words when we have the chance.
Advocates for Youth edits all published materials, so we will send you the revised draft for your approval before it is featured in the newsletter. We want to make sure that you are happy with the final product as well!

When you submit an essay, it may not appear right away in the next issue but we will be sure to include it as soon as possible.
Even if you submitted an essay, you can still send others for upcoming issues of the newsletter.
You will receive an email by the next iYAN edition as to whether you are one of the first 10 to submit your article.
If you have questions on how to submit your essay, please contact Mimi at mimi@advocatesforyouth.org. Do it soon!! You could be one of the first 10!

Homophobia in Uganda: Hatred is Not a Cultural Value
by Brian Ackerman, International Policy Manager

Just this past month, legislation was introduced in the Ugandan parliament that expands criminal penalties for being gay.
The Anti-Homosexuality Law, Bill Number 18, in the Ugandan national parliament, has all the trappings of yet another gross violation of human rights structured on the premise that gays constitute some sort of threat to the general social welfare. Under Uganda’s current penal code, any member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community can be imprisoned for up to 14 years if they are convicted of carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature. This new legislation would increase that sentence to life and, if one is convicted of aggravated homosexuality, would carry a penalty of death. That’s right—in 2009, at a time when other countries and states within the U.S. are moving toward recognizing marriage equality, Uganda is moving toward making life for the LGBT community in their country a living Hell.
On November 18, 2009, Advocates, in partnership with SMUG Uganda, an organization working towards GLBT equality in Uganda, organized a rally in front of the Ugandan Embassy to say, enough is enough! We cannot allow homophobic legislation that reinforces an unethical bias against the LGBT community in Uganda.

How can you join us in this action?

Blog on Amplify about this horrendous law or write a letter to your president to condemn the proposed legislation!

To learn more about SMUG, go to www.sexualminoritiesuganda.org

If you are interested in writing a letter, email Mimi at mimi@advocatesforyouth.org

Register to be a part of the 2010 NGO Global Forum for Women: Beijing +15

The 2010 NGO Global Forum for Women for Beijing +15 will take place February 27-28, 2010, in New York City. This Forum immediately precedes the 54th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which will undertake a 15-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action. For more information, visit the website.

The Fourth World Conference on Women met in Beijing in 1995 and focused on increasing opportunities for women and on advancing goals of equality, development, and peace for women. One hundred eighty-nine governments participated as did representatives from thousands of NGOs. Member states put forth a Platform of Action. It outlined strategic objectives to advance the roles of women.
The 12th objective specifically addressed the “girl child,” including the specific provisions below.
Platform of Action: Governments must “Include in their activities women with diverse needs and recognize that youth organizations are increasingly becoming effective partners in development programmes.”
Platform of Action: Governments must “Ensure equal access to and equal treatment of women and men in education and health care and enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health as well as education.”
Action 281 (c): “Strengthen and reorient health education and health services … including sexual and reproductive health, and design quality health programs that meet the physical and mental needs of girls and that attend to the needs of young, expectant and nursing mothers.”
Action 281 (d): “Establish peer education and outreach programs with a view to strengthening individual and collective action to reduce the vulnerability of girls to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases…”

For more information visit: http://www.un.org/Conferences/Women

To read the Beijing Platform of Action, click here:

Mark Your Calendar: XVII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, July 2010!

Can you believe it? It’s already time to prepare for the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010), to be held in Vienna, Austria, from July 18-23, 2010.

AIDS 2010 will mark an important milestone: the deadline by which world leaders have committed to ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. The conference will be an opportunity to evaluate progress to date and to identify what must be done, both individually and collectively, to achieve this critical goal. With an estimated 25,000 participants and 2,500 media in attendance, the eyes of the world will be upon Vienna. This is our time also, to make sure that the eyes of the world are on young people to step up as the leaders of the HIV/AIDS movement!

Now is the time to start planning—for registration, to submit abstracts, and to join the mailing list to receive updates from the conference secretariat!

To go to the main conference website and join the AIDS 2010 Mailing List, click here. http://www.aids2010.org/. Sign up to receive a monthly email with news and information on how to get involved! Your email address will only be used for conference-related updates.

Don’t miss the Youth Programme section of the web site http://www.aids2010.org/Default.aspx?pageId=178 and be sure to check out the first Youth Programme newsletter! http://www.aids2010.org/WebContent/File/Youthaids_Newsletter_English_1.pdf

In order to be able to register and submit abstracts to the Conference, you must first create a profile or sign in if you already have a profile from a previous conference.

Registration is open for the Conference. Delegates are encouraged to register by February 24, 2010, to avoid a late surcharge.

Abstracts submission is open and all the information you need to know about objectives and tracks to choose from are here. http://www.aids2010.org/Default.aspx?pageId=179

The Programme Activity Submission Process for the Global Village and Youth Programme is also open. You can access it through your conference profile and submit programme activities online. Application guidelines, key dates and links to the conference profile page are available here:

The AIDS 2010 local secretariat is operating in Vienna, Austria. The local secretariat is responsible for organizing and coordinating several key tasks, including the Global Village and Youth Program, and for supporting local stakeholders and the local community in their participation in AIDS 2010. The Senior Coordinator of the local secretariat is Marijana Grandits. The AIDS 2010 Local Co-Chair is Dr. Brigitte Schmied from the Austrian AIDS Society.

Contact Details:
AIDS 2010 Local Secretariat
Zelinkagasse 4/1st floor
1010 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 4000 76781

Read All About It

Demand for Abortion Decreases Dramatically
According to a recent report from the Guttmacher Institute, the number of women seeking abortions worldwide has declined dramatically in the past decade, even as laws against abortion were liberalized in many countries, according to a recent report. At the same time, unintended pregnancy rates didn’t go up because of women’s greater access to contraceptives. However, the picture isn’t the same for 200 million women around the world. National Public Radio’s Brenda Wilson said, “Abortions declined everywhere, but the least declines occurred where abortion was still illegal, and consequently not safe. In many countries – mainly in Africa and Latin America – where the mortality rate from abortions remained unchanged, 70,000 women still die each year from abortions.”

“Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress” was authored by Susheela Singh, Deirdre Wulf, Rubina Hussain, Akinrinola Bankole and Gilda Sedgh.

A series of regional fact sheets accompany the report release and offer a detailed glimpse of the legal status, incidence and consequences of unsafe abortion in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean (en español) and Africa (en français).

Click here for a new slide presentation on worldwide abortion.

To read more, click here for NPR’s interview with Susan Cohen at Guttmacher Institute:
Report Shows Fewer Abortions Worldwide

Homophobia in the Caribbean Contributes to HIV Vulnerability among Gay Men

AIDS is now the leading cause of death among adults in the Caribbean and the rate of new infections is the second highest in the world, following just behind Sub-Saharan Africa. A major factor in the region’s susceptibility to the epidemic is its pervasive atmosphere of homophobia, which makes education and outreach efforts nearly impossible. In fact, a 32 percent HIV infection rate among gay men in Jamaica was reported in a case study released last year on how anti-gay attitudes have helped spread and intensify the epidemic’s impact.

To read more, click here for The Atlantic’s article: How AIDS Became A Caribbean Crisis

FALSE and Always Will be: The Top 10 Myths of HIV and AIDS

Here are the first 3 from the article to get us started:
1. Having a shower after sex prevents AIDS. FALSE.
Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, drew fierce criticism from AIDS campaigners in 2005 when he told a court he had showered after having sex with a woman with HIV, believing this would reduce his chances of contracting the virus.

2. Sexual intercourse with a virgin will cure AIDS. FALSE.
A myth originally occurring in Europe in the 16th century when it was believed sexually transmitted diseases could be cured by sex with a virgin. This myth is particularly pervasive in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

3. AIDS can be caught from a lavatory seat. FALSE.
An erroneous belief so common in the early days of AIDS in the 1980s that poster campaigns were specifically designed to tackle the issue.

To read the 7 remaining myths, here is the article in UK’s The Telegraph: 10 Myths About HIV and AIDS

Tools You Can Use

Learning to Speak MDGs: A Revised Publication from Youth Coalition

The Youth Coalition’s popular publication, “Learning to Speak MDGs,” has been revised in time for the ten-year review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)!

The publication reviews four of the MDGs, including universal education; gender equality; maternal health; and HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, from a youth, sexual, and reproductive health and rights perspective.

This comprehensive guide is a useful tool for young activists to understand the MDGs in a broad development framework, and also for individuals and organizations who work within the MDG context to incorporate a youth perspective.

You can download the 2nd edition of “Learning to Speak MDGs” by visiting the Youth Coalition website at www.youthcoalition.org.

Young Women and HIV fact sheet by World AIDS Campaign
Young women are one of the most powerful driving forces to overcome HIV and AIDS. Time and again, we have seen that the health and wellbeing of young women are at the centre of building strong and thriving communities. Yet, many young women remain unprotected, vulnerable, unduly affected and at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, simply because they are young and women.
This fact sheet discusses the challenges of young women and what international treaties could help in holding governments accountable for improving the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young women.
To find the publications in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Portugese, Russian, and Hindi, click here:


Coming Soon

Happy New Year from Advocates for Youth!
When the time comes to celebrate a New Year, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what we have yet to achieve as individual youth activists and as a global movement for sexual and reproductive health and rights. It’s important to utilize the opportunities that we have to be the best leaders we can be and engage in dialogue to share knowledge on sexual and reproductive health issues, reach out to the media to amplify our voices, educate policy makers, and revitalize or create new advocacy campaigns to advance our issues. Let’s start the New Year by looking back on all the great work that we have all been doing and feeling proud. Advocates wishes each and every one of you a very happy New Year and we look forward to being in touch and working together in 2010 and beyond.

Welcome to 2010—there’s a lot of work to do!

Advocates for Youth has a form to sign-up for the iYAN on our website. Send this link to your friends so they can sign-up too!

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