AKSEPT/DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? YPLWH LEADERSHIP TRAINING
“This is one of the greatest experiences of my life and it has given me a huge needed boost to take steps on becoming open as an HIV positive in my everyday life.”
Although the number of young people living with HIV in Norway is relatively low, the numbers do not reflect individual experiences and the issues are not small. We have heard stories from young people living with HIV or AIDS in Norway that stigma is a real and damaging issue and that awareness campaigns in Norway have been ineffective.
According to Norway’s national HIV strategy Acceptance and Coping, “the psychological costs of keeping one’s HIV status secret are often great for both the individual and the society” (preface). These effects were evident in the experiences and the emotions that the seminar participants shared.
Participants reported a lack of services to address the specific sexual health needs for young people living with HIV or AIDS in Norway. The Norwegian Children and Youth Council Member Organizations has no members that address this gap.
We were invited by our partners AKSEPT to help young people come together to talk about these issues, to learn from them and to help to strengthen the local institutional capacity by providing local training for young people. We are happy to say that even though there were concerns that we would not succeed in recruiting participants, nine amazing young people came together. They committed to this process and with continued training, funding and support will likely be the new leaders in the HIV movement. The training provided them with some skills and tools to begin leading the movement in their communities and country. The intention is to begin mobilizing these young people to define their disease – in turn redefining their life and ending stigma.
We hope that these young Norwegians’ will have the opportunity to use their voices to address stigma, educate the public and encourage young people to get tested.