Along with many Christian humanitarian groups that are taking action to fight against HIV/AIDS, YMCA, the nation’s largest non-profit service organization serving more than 18.9 million people, has also started the first worldwide HIV/AIDS Forum targeting on youth, with the theme “Healing and Wholeness – The Global Challenge of HIV-AIDS.”
The inaugural YMCA-sponsored HIV/AIDS Forum, organized by the World Alliance of YMCAs, YMCA of South Africa, and YMCA of the USA, is taking place in Durban, South Africa, March 14 – 22, 2004. Keynote speakers include Stephen Lewis, United Nations Special Envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa, and Zakie Achmat, HIV activist and leader of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
What is so special about this conference is that more than 100 young people from 30 countries who are currently doing pioneering YMCA work in HIV-AIDS, are leading workshops and participating in the inaugural Forum.
“There’s a strong international consensus which says that if the pandemic is to be subdued, it’s the youth of the world who will achieve it,” said Stephen Lewis, United Nations Special Envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa. “They’re infected disproportionately; they do the bulk of the work on prevention; they hold the future of their countries in their hands. This YMCA conference is therefore of crucial importance.”
“YMCA HIV-AIDS programs influence the values and knowledge of more than a million young people a year. But we believe more can be done. This conference is about making a real difference in the global challenge of controlling this complex disease.”
Workshop topics will include capacity-building strategies for youth life skills, peer education, care and counseling, fundraising, youth employment and parental involvement.
“The Forum will be an unprecedented assembly of YMCA youth leaders from around the world currently working at the forefront of this pandemic health crisis. YMCA of the USA is honored to help lead this groundbreaking, global dialogue and sharing of knowledge and best practices,” said Kenneth L. Gladish, Ph.D., National Executive Director, YMCA of the USA.
The goals for the Forum are to equip participants with the skills to scale-up best practices in HIV-AIDS prevention and care, and to engage in effective advocacy as well as to reduce stigma. At the Forum, delegates will help to fulfill those goals by sharing their expertise to maximize practical outcomes.
“The forum will promote dialogue and create viable action plans on how to address the root causes of HIV transmission such as gender inequity, youth exploitation, the absence of basic information and educational materials, stigma, lack of access to medical care and counseling and intravenous drug use,” said Tom Valentine, Senior Associate Director, International Group, YMCA of the USA.