By Action Setaka
Youth Against Aids launched its AIDS Conference at its headquarters Saturday, 21 July 2018 where it officially welcomed over 200 young leaders from all over the world to its AIDS Conference operational centre. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers is one of the organisations invited under the Youth Against AIDS wing to be part of this international conference. The ACTIVATE! Change Drivers delegation is led by Health Sector Project Coordinator, Rammolotsi Kgotso Sothoane, and it is comprised of Activators whose projects were chosen by Youth Against AIDS as innovative and deserving of a scholarship to attend the 8th International AIDS conference. These Activators include among others; Nozipho Zungu (Gauteng), El J Sebeo (Free State), Matlhogonolo Tlhomelang, Queen Velaphi and Kholofelo Baloyi.
ACTIVATE! is represented by the largest number of African delegation from a single organisation, this shows the respect ACTIVATE! enjoys globally for innovative thinking and their impactful projects. The day started with workshops on issues such as social media activism and different regional perspectives on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. Typical of Activators, they engaged energetically and fully participated in these workshops. “The workshops gave us an opportunity to learn and connect with other like-minded young people, as well as forge possible partnerships on projects and help us to scale our projects on global space. I’m happy and confident that we will come out of this conference as people who are ready to face challenges with more confidence and strength,” says Matlhogonolo Tlhomelang.
This official launch was graced by the presence of Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé. In his speech, the Executive Director did not mince his word in saying the cure of AIDS will come from young people. “When I decided to launch this idea of ending AIDS, it was just a dream to many people. But I’m convinced that with YOU we will end this epidemic” said Mr Sidibé who says he bases his reasoning on the energy and creativity which he sees daily in young people. He advised young activists to never settle on thinking that they are leaders of tomorrow but must start acting and claiming space to lead
Michel Sidibé further urged young people to use this energy and creativity on social media. He said that young people are advantageous in knowing how to relate and take message to their peers appropriately. “Fight injustices, stop violence against adolescent girls, and early marriage. Write about these injustices and use social media to break these barriers,” added Sidibé.
The day ended with a movie on LBGTIA+ and mental health problems associated with coming out of the closet. Activator Nozipho Zungu was among the panellists and shared stage with respected Netherlands and Germany influencers who are experts on issues of LBGTIA+. Nozipho Zungu believes that the first steps to accepting LBGTIA+ is educating parents and that they should be the. “We must focus on changing mindsets of parents. It is them that need the understanding of sexuality because their support means so much when you are battling with coming out. Therefore, more projects should target parents,” suggested Nozipho who works with young women in Johannesburg assisting them to be independent by building their character and sex education.
On the 22nd of July, all delegates were taken for a sightseeing tour. The opening ceremony of international AIDS conference will be on Monday, 23rd July 2018.