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Globally 5 million young people are living with HIV and this number is rising as children who are prenatallyinfected gain access to life-prolonging ARV treatment and new infections among youth continue.  In 2009, 370,000 babies were born HIV-positive; approximately 2,500 young people are newly infected with HIV daily. For many, HIV has become a chronic disease that necessitates lifelong treatment, care, and support. FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’s Interagency Youth Working Group will deliver two presentations at the 2012 International AIDS Conference focusing on the unique needs of young people living with HIV, and on the provision of ongoing, supportive counseling and sexual and reproductive health information.

On Sunday July 22, 2012 from 9:00 to 11:00am in Mini Room 2, FHI 360 will participate in a USAID-sponsored satellite session titled, “Journey of Life for Children Living with HIV: From Diagnosis to Adulthood.” This session will introduce several new tools and resources to address critical issues that youth living with HIV face along their continuum of care, including disclosure, adherence, retention, relationships, and sexuality. The goal of this session is to present the current evidence, best practices, and tools, and provide a forum for discussion and youth voices. (For more information about the satellite session, click on the image of the flyer.) Then on the 26th, from 12:30 to 2:30, FHI 360 will give a poster presentation on an innovative new tool, titled “Positive Connections: Leading Information and Support Groups for Adolescents Living with HIV,” designed to assist adult facilitators in starting and leading information and support groups for young people living with HIV.  Positive Connections will be available in the fall of 2012.

If you are attending the International AIDS Conference, please join us at these two exciting events!

Yesterday was the first day of the SexTech 2012 conference. SexTech is an annual conference hosted by ISIS Inc. that focuses on technology and youth sexual and reproductive health. The conference opened with a panel of young people who discussed why they use social media.

 During the panel discussion, one young woman stated that she had used social media, “basically her whole life.” Ten years ago, before the launch of Facebook or Twitter, this statement was inconceivable; today, however, social media is pervasive in our society. Understanding why and how people communicate through social media allows us to better understand how to optimize social media in youth sexual and reproductive health programs.

The popularity of social media among young people makes this technology ideal for reaching youth with sexual and reproductive health information. The use of social media and other new technologies for this purpose is relatively new, and many questions about the best way to do so remain unanswered. This presentation was a good opening to what will surely be a great conference. It will be interesting to hear how organizations are using social media and other new technologies to advance youth sexual and reproductive health.

Last night the Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG) hosted its annual

IYWG Meeting Participants

meeting as an auxiliary event at the International Family Planning Conference. Hosting the meeting at the conference was an amazing opportunity. Attendees included youth, government officials, donors, and a wide range of professionals. It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by so many people who share a common goal of improving the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes of young people.

IYWG Meeting Participants

At the meeting, participants shared their incredible insights and experiences.  There were some outstanding discussions about approaches to meeting youth SRH needs among a range of populations and through a diversity of interventions.  The topics discussed included the SRH needs of married adolescents, addressing cross generational relationships, the SRH needs of young people living with HIV, and many more.

IYWG Meeting Participants

Commitment to improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health has been a common thread throughout the entire conference. One goal of this year’s IYWG meeting was to explore how we, as a community of youth sexual and reproductive health champions, can ensure that the conference’s focus on youth is maintained after the meeting closes.  By joining together to share lessons learned from the conference, participants were able to discuss how to translate these lessons into action in the field.

“I will share the information I learned tonight with our networks to help lives” –Participant Senegal

The IYWG will develop a set of strategy recommendations based on the discussions that were held at this meeting. These recommendations will be available on our website. We will also be hosting a follow-up e-forum to continue the meeting dialogue. The e-forum will be held from January 25 to January 27 2011; if you were not able to attend this meeting, we invite you to participate in the e-forum. Check our website for more details.

 
Opening plenary session

It is day one of the International Family Planning Conference (ICFP) and young people will play a pivotal role in this year’s conference. There are more than 150 young people attending, and there are a number of presentations, sessions, and other events dedicated to the sexual and reproductive health of this population. 

 

“This is an opportunity not just to talk about issues of youth and family planning but for young people to be present as well.” Dr. Robert Blum

The international attention being paid to the unique needs of young people could not be more timely. In developing countries, as many as one-third of adolescent girls give birth before their 20thbirthday. Furthermore, lack of access to family planning services leads to approximately 7.4 million unintended adolescent pregnancies every year. This conference provides an excellent opportunity for young people and professionals in the field of youth sexual and reproductive health to gather together for one collective purpose—ensuring that the needs of youth are met today so that they can achieve the promise they hold for the future.

Youth participants at PRB's Youth Policy Communications workshop

The Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG) is thrilled to be a part of this monumental event. FHI 360, on behalf of the IYWG, is hosting several exciting sessions and events, including our annual meeting, that focus on youth sexual and reproductive health. To learn more about the IYWG-sponsored events at the ICFP, please visit our website and check our blog for daily updates.

In November “more than a 1,000 family planning experts will gather in Senegal to examine cutting edge research and family planning programs” at the second International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP). This year’s conference has dedicated one of its tracks to the family planning needs of youth. The international attention to the unique needs of this population could not be more timely. In developing countries, as many as one-third of adolescent girls give birth before their 20th birthday. Furthermore, lack of access to family planning services leads to approximately 7.4 million unintended adolescent pregnancies every year. 

To help ensure that the attention on the family planning needs of young people is translated into action  in the field, the IYWG is hosting our annual meeting as a conference auxiliary event. This year’s meeting, What’s Next? Maintaining the Focus on Youth After Dakar will focus on applying conference lessons to the field of youth sexual and reproductive health. If you are attending the ICFP in Dakar, please join us as leading experts on youth sexual and reproductive health, programmers, researchers and young people share their insights and experience in an informal setting. To learn more about our annual meeting and about the other exciting events the IYWG is sponsoring at the ICFP, please visit our website. We look forward to seeing you in Dakar.

Robyn Dayton is a Technical Officer at FHI where she works on the research utilization portfolio of youth reproductive and sexual health activities.

I had the opportunity to present at Sex Tech 2011 in San Francisco, CA a few weeks ago. It was a great conference, and it was awesome to be surrounded by the energy of so many people who care about youth sexual and reproductive health and have ideas on how to harness technology to promote that health.

There are some really interesting initiatives that use technology to promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health. For example, texting is being used by peer educators to answer questions and make referrals, by clinic workers to give information on contraceptive options after abortion, and by organizations seeking to help women use family planning more effectively. Facebook is also being used all over the world to promote contraception. Some organizations are using Facebook campaigns to promote male condoms, the female condom, and long-acting methods for youth. Twitter is also widely used. Finally, there are some innovative campaigns designed to start conversations among youth on topics such as HIV.

More traditional media was also represented at the conference. The producers of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” along with their partners at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, joined the conference to talk about the impact of their incredibly popular show and the work they are doing to increase awareness of unplanned pregnancy.

For more information on the conference, check out their Web site, sextech.org.

Kathy Lancaster, MPH, is a Global Health Research Fellow at FHI.

I was happy to begin my new year in Washington, DC attending the 1st International Workshop on HIV and Women from Adolescence through Menopause. The workshop covered a wide range of topics, including biology of risk, contraception, aging, toxicity, mucosal immunity, hormone interactions, social behavior aspects, and pregnancy. Nearly 30 countries were represented from Africa, South America, North America, and Asia. The two-day conference consisted of invited lectures, abstract-driven scientific presentations, and poster sessions to generate a strategic agenda for future management for women and HIV.

Although the workshop was not specific to youth, presenters frequently reminded participants that women and adolescents are disproportionally affected by HIV and that HIV prevention and treatment activities need to focus on adolescent girls. One study presented by Yanga Zembe from Medical Research Council in Cape Town, South Africa, highlighted that young women’s capacity to act independently in their sexual lives is often overpowered by male-biased social norms. These norms limit women’s ability to protect themselves from potential risky sexual encounters. Prevention messages and activities need to take young women’s social environment into consideration.

Another presenter pointed out that as the number of adolescents living with HIV grows, it is imperative to understand the myriad challenges to involving and keeping youth in HIV treatment. Of the adolescents who are engaged in HIV treatment, few have actually achieved suppressed viral loads. According to Dr. Glenda Gray, young people find it difficult to disclose their HIV status—including to the very people who might be in a position to help them. Adherence to HIV drug treatment is challenging for adolescents. Young people may not completely understand the importance of  strictly adhering to their HIV treatment or they may refuse to take the drugs altogether because of the negative side effects associated with treatment. Treatment facilities urgently need to create adolescent-specific care to address these concerns.

To learn more about the workshop or view presentations, click here.

Joy Cunningham is a Senior Technical Officer at FHI where she provides oversight for the research utilization portfolio of youth reproductive and sexual health activities.

I was happy to spend early November in Denver, CO for the 2010 American Public Health Association meeting.  There, I was able to be able to “debut” the new IYWG Web site during a poster presentation on global interventions on adolescent reproductive health. Click here to view the session.

It was validating to meet and chat with fans of the IYWG resources and hear positive responses to our newly re-designed Web site. Web design can be a tedious process and the encouragement at APHA served to bolster my commitment to the outcome.

I was also pleased to officially launch our newest IYWG publication “Evidence-based Youth Peer Education Guidelines” at a panel session on adolescent sex education. To check out this session click here, or  view my presentation.

A special thanks to the moderator, Claire Brindis, for facilitating a lively discussion on future directions for sex education. I was most impressed by the support for our new resource— many people eagerly took the copies I brought and asked how to place an order.

We are excited to continue the launch of the guidelines over the next month. Stay tuned for an “ask the experts” on-line discussion with peer educators from Y-PEER, our partnering organization in the production of the guidelines. And, check back in with our blog for guest blogging by peer educators around the world as they share experiences (and pictures!) of the guidelines in action.  Click here to view the guidelines. To order your copy, please email: publications@fhi.org

IYWG logo

This blog is brought to you by the Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG) with financial assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The content is managed by FHI, which functions as the secretariat for the IYWG.
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