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
Young People, HIV and Drug use: A Call for a Comprehensive Response
By Adelou, Nigeria, Youth RISE International Working Group- Africa
The Youth R.I.S.E Africa Regional Youth Development meeting, held on August 13th in Abuja, Nigeria, opened up a dialogue that has for many years remained shut. The meeting took place after the Ninth Biennial Conference on Alcohol, Drug, and Society in Africa. Most of the youth participants left with an affirmative statement: “No more time for a dance with shadows.” The topic: HIV/AIDS, and the exclusion of drug users from HIV prevention interventions.
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) recently reported that there are over 840 million people living in Africa and half of this population is younger than 18. (1) This is a crucial resource base any responsible government should take advantage of to achieve unprecedented and sustainable development. However, the youth population in Africa is faced with myriad challenges that often place them behind their counterparts in other parts of the world. One of these challenges is sexual and reproductive health and rights. Africa contains a little above 10% of the world’s population but is home to about two-thirds of all people living with HIV/AIDS, and at the center of the epidemic are young people.
The impact of HIV/AIDS has been devastating, affecting households, the economy, the health sector, food production, and many other areas. Although policy-makers and program planners at all levels, as well as international donors, have paid increasing attention to HIV/AIDS in the region, the response to the specific component of the epidemics driven by substance use (both injecting and non-injecting) have largely been ignored and attracted much less attention and funding in terms of drug policy and interventions.
While heterosexual sex has for a long time been the major mode of HIV transmission in Africa, the rates of drug use are increasing and consequently we have seen an increase in drug-related HIV risk behaviors. Existing data on HIV and drug use in Sub-Saharan Africa, though limited, has shown the high vulnerability of large populations of young people becoming involved in drug use and the increasing availability and use of illicit drugs.(2) The United Nations estimated that about $1 billion worth of cocaine destined to Europe from Latin America passed through West Africa in 2008.(3) In fact, the value of this drug trade is comparable and even higher than the gross domestic product of some countries in the region. Today, drugs are more available on our streets than the education, information, and support needed to reduce related harms.
Drug use puts many young people at greater risk of HIV. Most young injecting drug users share syringes due to cost, inaccessibility, or ignorance of the dangers involved. And for female injecting drug users, they are often injected by their male partners with the same syringe used by others. Further, drug use, for both injecting and non-injecting drug users, has been documented to increase HIV risk through unprotected sexual encounters among users and their partners. Where prevention services are even available, young people are excluded due to age or the unfriendly attitudes of service providers.
Considering the magnitude of this issue, the expected and necessary response needed from governments and all stakeholders has been sparse. Most of our drug policies are still punitive embracing a “zero tolerance” or “quit or die” approach. This has led to massive incarceration and detention, placing a limit on their potentials and right to healthy development. Our policies are officially ignorant of the factors that predispose these young persons to initiate drugs. Furthermore, while it is very easy to get on drugs, it is not easy to stay off drugs. To support the transition between a state of Drug Use/ Dependency and No Drug Use, there is need for evidence-based interventions. During this transition, harm reduction interventions are needed.
It is obvious that ongoing, intensified drug law enforcement has failed to prevent the availability of illicit drugs and to effectively address the present challenges. The following challenges, among many others, should be considered a priority:
Review of existing drug policies to embrace scientific evidence that promotes public health and human rights. This review process should involve community participation and the population most affected, including young people. Young people are not only interested in the outcome but also the processes involved. We should be seen and be heard.
Comprehensive scale up of HIV prevention, treatment, and care programs for young people, including those who have yet to initiate drug and those already using drugs (harm reduction). We should bear in mind that sexuality education is not comprehensive enough without adrug education.
Increased and sustained funding for youth programs and youth-led organizations’ working to promote sexual reproductive health and reduce drug related harm for young people.
Negligence or inaction in protecting young people from drug-related harms is dangerous for a region like Africa, as it can result into an epidemic that may be difficult to contain in the near future. Experiences from other regions of the world like Asia and central Europe, as reported by Stop AIDS NOW (4), showed that drug use and HIV in a single decade developed into a “Dual Epidemic.” Africa governments should end the dance with shadows; we should embrace reality. Young people are most willing to take the lead if given the support. It is our lives and our future.
Karin Ringheim and James Gribble: Improving reproductive health of Sub-Saharan African Youth. Population Reference Bureau. http://www.prb.org/pdf10/youthchartbook.pdf .June 2010.
Chris Beyrer et al: Time to act: a call for comprehensive response to HIV in people who use drug. HIV in people who use drug. Lancet 2010: 108 – 118
$1 Billion Cocaine passed Through West Africa To Europe. Article in Nigeria Daily Trust Newspaper, March 7, 2010.
John Peter-kool. Drug use and HIV risk among young people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Stop AIDs Now. 2008
This Month’s Featured Blogs on Amplify
Outstanding Advances in Maternal Health Solutions in Rwanda
Maternal mortality is one of the most heartbreaking and devastating challenges women and families face in the developing world. The leading cause of death for young women ages 15 to 19 in developing countries is complications from pregnancy, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where 2.2 million young women have unintentional pregnancies every year. This crisis is finally being addressed effectively with exciting developments in Rwanda:
60,000 rural health workers have been trained to help mothers and children, at least one worker is present in each village in Rwanda
Women are receiving more education about family planning, contraception, and hygiene
A revolutionary SMS system is being implemented to get trained medical professionals to expecting mothers.
In addition, the government is introducing a large program to provide women with the HPV vaccine, further protecting their health and lives.
Click here to read more: http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/u/dandaman6007/2010/9/21/Outstanding-Advances-In-Maternal-Health-Solutions-In-Rwanda
Who is the Face of Leadership?
Have you ever thought about this before? As a young person, what comes to mind when you think about Leadership? Who do you see as a leader? Around you today, who are the leaders?
Just in case you are thinking too far, that face is what you see when you look in the mirror.
In Nigeria today, there is a lot of misconception about Leadership. When young people think about leadership, they think about status and position. That is wrong!
Click here to read more: http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/u/kiki/2010/8/23/Who-is-the-face-of-LEADERSHIP
What’s New at Advocates for Youth?
Over 120 activists Convene in D.C. for Advocates’ Urban Retreat
From September 24-27, 120 youth activists from around the United States and world joined Advocates’ staff in Washington, D.C., for the annual urban retreat. The Urban Retreat is a three-day training and lobby day where young people from across Advocates’ programs come together to build skills and knowledge related to their respective programs, ending with lobby visits to legislators on Capitol Hill. Ranging in age from 14-24, from 24 different states, 6 countries, and a variety of backgrounds, these amazing young people:
shared their expertise with one another and Advocates for Youth staff;
learned about the latest research and policies related to young people’s reproductive health;
participated in trainings on topics that included HIV prevention, sexual and reproductive health and rights, social justice, working with the media, peer education counseling, movement building, advocacy, videography, public speaking, international agreements, blogging, and other forms of online activism; and
demonstrated incredible commitment to improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and around the world.
educated members of Congress regarding the dangers of abstinence-only funding domestically and the need to support rights- and evidence-based sexual and reproductive health programming for youth internationally within existing U.S. foreign assistance.
In addition, activists from Jamaica, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, and India, along with U.S. activists, also met with U.S. administration staff after the Urban Retreat. During these meetings, they advocated for greater prioritization of comprehensive programming for young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights within various U.S. foreign assistance initiatives, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Health Initiative. These youth leaders met with staff from the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, the State Department, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Check out photos from the long weekend!
Jaevion at closing ceremony
Advocates for Youth Youth Activists
IYLC and IYSO!
Check out blogs from activists attending the Urban Retreat:
“A Night of Gifts: Inspired by Lt. Dan Choi @ the Sunday Dinner of the Urban Retreat”: Click here: http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/u/cavve_sol/2010/9/29/A-Night-of-Gifts-Inspired-by-Lt-Dan-Choi–the-Sunday-Dinner-of-the-Urban-Retreat
“Think Young People Can’t Step Up and Solve Society’s Problems? Think Again.”: Click here: http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/u/dandaman6007/2010/9/29/Think-Young-People-Cant-Step-Up-And-Solve-Societies-Problems-Think-Again
“Lobby Day 2010 for the Urban Retreat”: Click here: http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/u/Mahayana/2010/9/29/Lobby-Day-2010-for-the-Urban-Retreat
“Tweet Tweet….Follow @My Sistahs!”: Click here: http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/u/kathleenmysistahs/2010/9/26/Tweet-TweetFollow-MySistahs
“Urban Retreat: “No Judgement”: Click here: http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/u/Mahayana/2010/9/27/Urban-Retreat-No-Judgment
“What are our plans after the Urban Retreat?”: Click here:
Advocates and Partners Launch a New Publication on HIV Services
Globally, almost a quarter of people living with HIV are under the age of 25. Furthermore, 45 percent of all new HIV infections are among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Experts estimate that fewer than 40 percent of young people living with HIV or AIDS know their HIV status. It is important to recognize the needs of young people as well as the vital role they play in halting and reversing the epidemic. Young people need accessible, affordable, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) services, including HIV services.
The World AIDS Campaign, Advocates for Youth and the Instituto de Educación y Salud have recently launched a new youth-friendly fact sheet on HIV services.
The fact sheet is available here:
The fact sheet will soon be available in Spanish, French, Arabic and Mandarin.
Check out a Video from our Partner in Nigeria, Education as a Vaccine, on Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Youth
In Nigeria, 23% of women between the ages of 15 and 19 are pregnant or already have their first child. Sexual and reproductive health information and services are still difficult for young people to access.
Check out a video on YouTube from our partner Education as a Vaccine that highlights the challenges young people face in Nigeria to access sexual and reproductive health services:
Click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMtHtr8w2Hk
Read All About It
Malawi Rules out Circumcision in HIV Prevention Strategy
In Malawi, a country with an HIV prevalence of 12 percent, male circumcision has recently been ruled out of the HIV prevention strategy. The Principal Secretary for HIV and AIDS said that there is not enough evidence to show that circumcision slows the spread of HIV.
To read more, click here:
Malawi rules out male circumcision for HIV prevention
Take a Look at Romania’s Prevention Efforts
Outreach workers from the Romanian Association Against AIDS (ARAS) distribute clean needles to Bucharest’s most vulnerable residents: sex workers, street children and homeless adults. Most of those whom they are reaching are Roma (the second largest ethnic minority in Romania) and most of them heroin addicts.
To read more, click here:
Eve of an HIV Epidemic in Romania
Urgency to Address HIV/AIDS in Russia
A recent UNICEF report notes increases in HIV prevalence rates of up to 700 percent in five regions of Russia. “There is an urgent need for the whole Eastern European and Central Asian region to act quickly,” said Bertil Lindblad, Director of the UNAIDS New York. He stated, “This is really quite scary given the fact that there is denial, and so much stigma and homophobia [in that region.] This could really create huge problems if HIV continues to spread from smaller groups in the population to wider.”
To read more, click here:
Foreign Policy: In Russia AIDS Still Stigmatized (NPR)
Potential for China to Change ‘One Child Rule’
For thirty years, China has strictly limited family size with the ‘one-child’ rule and limited individuals and couples’ rights to choose the number and spacing of their children.
“We know the one-child policy is unfair, but, to most Chinese people, it’s not about fairness, but about money,” said Shi Huili, a Beijing–based photographer who married this June. “If you have enough money, you can give birth to three, four or even more children, you only have to pay the fine.”
Debates about policy change have gone on for years, but it’s predicted that policy changes will happen early next year.
To read more, click here:
China tries out changes to one-child rule (USA Today)
My Voice Counts!
Are you on Amplify? Join Now!
Have you heard about Amplify but don’t know exactly what it is? One of Advocates for Youth’s main strategies is the use of new media technologies to empower young people to access information, share perspectives, connect to peers and services, and take action on issues that they care about..
Advocates communicates with its domestic and international networks of young people regularly via Amplify (www.amplifyyourvoice.org), a groundbreaking global Web site for young people working to improve youth sexual and reproductive and rights.
Thanks to many of you, Amplify–launched in January 2009, during its first year alone, hosted 370,000 visitors. The site is rapidly growing in popularity, with over 1,000,000 unique visitors expected in 2010.
Through the site, young activists blog, share stories, reach out to policy makers, write op-eds, and organize on-the-ground activism.
Amplify allows registered users to automatically stream their activities on Amplify to Facebook, so that a young person writing a blog about international family planning can share it instantly with hundreds of his/her friends. Amplify has been instrumental during the past year in successfully launching a campaign in favor of increased international family planning funding and in building Advocates’ International Youth Activist Network of more than 800 young people and youth-led/serving organizations around the globe.
You probably already know, but POWER comes with you as leaders who want to make a difference.
So, if you’re not already on Amplify, JOIN!
If you know people who are interested, get THEM to JOIN!
Blogging is fun, easy, and you can AMPLIFY your OWN voice by giving it a try!
Go to www.amplifyyourvoice.org and make your voice heard!
You mean that I can submit an essay and get a free Advocates for Youth notebook?
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 guidelines 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 in the next possible newsletter.
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 or not you are one of the first 10 people to submit an essay.
If you have questions on how to submit your essay, please contact Mimi at email@example.com. Do it soon!! You could be one of the first 10!
Tools You Can Use
Consultation on Strategic Information and HIV Prevention among Most-at-Risk Adolescents
By Unicef,in collaboration with the Inter-Agency Task Team
The Consultation on Strategic Information and HIV Prevention among Most-at-Risk Adolescents focused on experiences in countries with low and concentrated epidemics where HIV infection is concentrated among young men having sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDUs), and those who sell sex.
The report, which documents findings from the consultation, includes:
Discussion of the concepts of risk and vulnerability and a rationale for focusing on adolescents
An overview of global monitoring and evaluation frameworks for Most-at-Risk Adolescents
Guidance for data collection, and Population Size Estimation (PSE) methodologies
Examples from countries on data collection and programming for Most-at-Risk Adolescents
Key steps at the national, regional and global levels to strengthen the evidence base, increase political commitment and programming linkages across sectors for Most-at-Risk Adolescents.
For detailed information please visit:
The Global Guidance Briefs: HIV Interventions for Young People
By the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on HIV and Young People
These briefs aim to inform decision makers about HIV prevention for youth based on the latest global evidence on effective HIV interventions for young people. They include the following:
1. Overview of HIV Interventions for Young People
2. Most-at-risk Young People
3. Humanitarian Emergencies
4. Community-based HIV interventions
5. Education Sector
6. Health Sector
7. In the Workplace
Available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Russian, and Arabic. For detailed information please visit: http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/publications/pid/2850
For further information on the IATT on HIV and Young People, visit:
International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education: An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers and health educators
By UNESCO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNFPA, and WHO
This review of evidence on sexuality education programs was produced to assist education, health and other authorities in the development and implementation of school-based sexuality education programs. The document includes the following:
Volume I: Focuses on why sexuality education is important and how to provide effective programs.
Volume II: Outlines a basic minimum package on sexuality education for children and young people from 5 to 18+ years of age and includes a list of useful resources.
The guidance is relevant to countries with high, low and concentrated HIV prevalence epidemics. By mid-2010, the document will be available in all UN working languages and Portuguese.
For further information please visit: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001832/183281e.pdf
LEADING THE PREVENTION REVOLUTION: Empowering Young People to Protect Themselves from HIV
During the launch of the 2010 UNAIDS Outlook Report, UNAIDS’ Executive Director Mr. Michel Sidibé said, “For countries to reach their universal access targets and commitments, we must reshape the AIDS response.” In this report, UNAIDS provides an evidence-based argument for coordinated and comprehensive HIV prevention interventions focused on bold results to achieve its goal of reducing new HIV infections among young people by 30% by 2015, including:
comprehensive knowledge, including sexuality education
access and use of condoms for protection from STIs/HIV and pregnancy
increased use of HIV testing and counseling services.
The Outlook Report coupled with a youth supplement titled, “Young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution,” reports that HIV prevalence among young people is falling in 16 of the 21 countries most affected by HIV.
Previously, UNAIDS Outcome Framework for the period 2009–2011 identified ten priority areas selected because their realization will contribute directly to the achievement of universal access and will simultaneously enable advancement towards the related Millennium Development Goal outcomes. This framework was developed for UNAIDS and partners to advocate for comprehensive national responses, including ramped-up prevention efforts to break the trajectory of the epidemic. The framework identifiedsten priority areas, one of which is, “Empowering Young People to Protect Themselves from HIV .“
To view the 2010 UNAIDS Outlook Report, click here: data.unaids.org/pub/Report/2009/JC1796_Outlook_en.pdf
To view the youth supplement of the 2010 UNAIDS Outlook Report, “Young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution,” click here: http://data.unaids.org/pub/Outlook/2010/20100713_outlook_youngpeople_en.pdf
To view the UNAIDS Outcome Framework (2009-2011), click here: http://data.unaids.org/pub/Report/2010/jc1713_joint_action_en.pdf
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25
Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her. Up to 70 percent of women experience sexual or physical violence from men in their lifetime. Perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today, it devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development.
Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence — yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned.
— UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 8 March 2007
You can take action and join UNIFEM’s Say-NO Unite Campaign!
Say NO– UNiTE to End Violence against Women is a global call for action, launched in November 2009, to end violence against women and girls. It is presented by UNIFEM as a contribution to advance the objectives of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women through social mobilization. UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman is the Spokesperson of Say NO.
Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women is an expanding global coalition of individuals, organizations, governments and the private sector to realize a vision that is ambitious, but must never be impossible – a future that is free from violence against women and girls. Now, it’s your turn to mobilize on issues of violence against women this upcoming month!
Do you need ideas on what to organize? Click here: http://www.saynotoviolence.org/about-say-no/organizers-toolkit
Do you need tools to help you organize to take action? Click here: http://www.saynotoviolence.org/about-say-no/organizers-toolkit
Want to take action right now? Sign the global call for action on www.saynotoviolence.org to tell governments around the world that you want them to make ending violence against women and girls a top priority.
Do you want to blog about it on Amplify? Go to www.amplifyyourvoice.org!
Need more research? Check out Advocates’ fact sheet: The Facts: Gender Inequality and Violence Against Women and Girls Around the World
Check out publications from the campaign at: http://www.saynotoviolence.org/issue/publications
You can also learn other facts and figures from around the world!
Just click on these issues:
Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence
Harmful Traditional Practices
Trafficking in Women and Girls
HIV/AIDS and Violence
Crimes against Women in Situations of Armed Conflict
Violence against Women as a Human Rights Violation
To learn more about International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, check out this website: http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/vaw/
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!