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© 2000 Patrick Coleman, Courtesy of PhotoshareOver the past year, the global youth community has had much to celebrate! As the New Year approaches we are taking a look back over some of the major milestones in youth health and development that occurred in 2012.  Following is a selection of the highlights:

  • On April 27, 2012, at the 45th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD), member states issued a bold resolution in support of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights.
  • Also in April, the Lancet released its second series on adolescent health. This series includes four papers, “Adolescence: a foundation for future health,” “Adolescence and the social determinants of health,” “Worldwide application of prevention science in adolescent health,” and “Health of the world’s adolescents: a synthesis of internationally comparable data.”
  • As a part of the International AIDS conference in July, YouthForce and CrowdOutAIDS/UNAIDS invited young people to develop a list of priority HIV responses. These responses were compiled to create The Declaration for Change, a document intended to advance the vision for an AIDS-free generation.
  • At the landmark Family Planning Summit on July 11, 2012, global leaders from national governments, donor organizations, civil society, the private sector, and the research and development community committed to increasing contraceptive access for 120 million women and girls by 2020.
  • On August 12, the world celebrated International Youth Day. The theme of this year’s youth day was “Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth” — a global call to action to develop and engage in partnerships with and for youth.
  • On October 11, we celebrated the first international day of the girl, recognizing the importance of addressing the most pressing needs of adolescent girls globally.
  • On November 1, USAID released a policy titled, “Youth in Development: Realizing the Demographic Opportunity,” which provides guidance on pursuing innovative and cost effective approaches to empowering youth to contribute to and benefit from their countries’ development efforts.
  • In December, more than 900 young people gathered in Bali, Indonesia to develop recommendations for the United Nations’ development agenda.  A major outcome of this event was the development of the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration.

We look forward to sharing many more milestones and accomplishment in the field of youth health and development in 2013! We wish all of our readers a Happy New Year!

This post originally appeared on the ICPD website and is available here.

The ICPD Global Youth Forum has produced a set of recommendations that outline the vision of young people around the world for their future. 

The conference was held in Bali, Indonesia, from 4-6 December 2012 in the context of the review and follow up to the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014 in order to produce recommended actions for the outcome report of the review and for the post-2015 United Nations’ development agenda, as well as to generate a new consensus on putting youth rights at the heart of development.

The forum was preceded by extensive interaction at national and global levels on the themes of staying healthy; comprehensive education; families, youth-rights and well-being, including sexuality; transition to decent work; and leadership and meaningful participation.

A dedicated web and mobile platform will provide the means for continued conversations on issues of youth rights, well-being and development in order to effectively influence global and national policies and programs that impact young people.

Read the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration

Dominick Shattuck, PhD, is a social and behavioral health scientist at FHI 360. Dominick has previously shared his reflection on Magic’s HIV announcement on FHI 360’s “Degrees” blog.

Recently, I was reminded that my research on HIV started 20 years ago and at the time, I didn’t know it. November 7th, 1991 was the day that Magic Johnson announced that he is HIV-positive.

That afternoon, my five roommates and I, all college athletes, huddled around the TV watching ESPN in disbelief. Magic was the main combatant to our beloved Larry Bird, but respected as a basketball icon with a warm smile and an undeniably great personality. We hated what he did to our Celtics, but nobody could hate Magic Johnson. As we sat in the dorm and listened to Magic tell us that he was HIV-positive, a strange discomfort set in among us that was based in a few different things: 1) our ignorance of HIV, 2) our denial that this could happen to someone we knew (because a young person’s attachment to an icon is real), and 3) our misunderstanding that being HIV-positive meant almost immediate death.

In the weeks that followed, Magic’s announcement was a part of our conversations. We discussed the reports of his numerous sexual partners, the stigma he faced from other players (i.e., Karl Malone) and all the pills he needed to stay alive. Later, we watched in awe as he played basketball again at the highest level and on more than one occasion forced governments (such as Taiwan) to make an exception to their visa policies. At the same time, our dormitory brought in HIV-positive speakers, young people, our age who contracted the infection through sex or drug use. Many of the speakers were far less healthy than Magic Johnson. And condoms became part of our regular conversation about sex. After Magic’s announcement, we talked about using them, in our own way, for more than pregnancy avoidance.

Today I thought I would take a few minutes to remind folks of this event because I feel it’s relevant to our work and likely a relative experience that we all shared in different contexts. If you’re less familiar with how newsworthy Magic’s HIV status announcement was, you can read this ESPN article or watch the documentary, “The Announcement.” The article provides the following quote, which gives a small glimpse of the impact Magic’s HIV positive status had on our country in 1991, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen reporters crying.”

Twenty years later, Magic is alive and doing well thanks to his drugs, great medical care, healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude. Although the focus of our work does not target celebrity athletes with worldwide appeal, those things that keep Magic alive and the impact of his announcement are relevant to our work. They also reflect changes in attitudes and behaviors toward HIV that many people never imagined could happen.

Greg Louganis is a gold-medal-winning Olympic diver and author. He tested positive for HIV in 1988 and has become a prominent and inspirational activist.

It has been almost 25 years since I was diagnosed with HIV. At the time the only drug we had available for treatment was AZT. The prescription for AZT was two pills every four hours around the clock. It’s a bit of an understatement to say this was not conducive to a good night’s rest while I was in training for a challenge of a lifetime, the Olympics.

Dealing with HIV was, on a daily basis, a physical and emotional challenge.  The fear, the shame, the pain were, at times, almost more than I could bear.  But then, it’s not really in my makeup to give up.

Ten years after I was diagnosed, I thought I would have to say good-bye to my friends and family. I was wasting away to almost nothing. Alone, I boarded a plane and flew thousands of miles from my home, where I checked into a hospital under an assumed name. To my good fortune, my doctors found the treatment to address the fungal infection in my colon and I recovered! But the next issue to face was how the heck to pay those enormous bills?! I didn’t claim it on my insurance as I was afraid of anyone finding out about my diagnoses.

I also survived the Protease Inhibitors treatment – not an easy ride! But it gave hope to many who were failing on other medications.

Now today, holy moly.  I can’t believe I’m here.  And the longer I live the more exciting my life becomes.  So many new adventures before me and I am looking ahead fearlessly!

While it is comforting to know HIV is no longer necessarily a death sentence, I would be negligent if I did not address prevention.  I wouldn’t wish my drug regimen on anyone… the side effects, not to mention the cost. Thankfully, the treatments are MUCH more tolerable and there are choices now.

I have spoken with quite a number of young, newly diagnosed men, and the first questions they are plagued by are “Why?” and “How?”  Accidents happen. In the long run, does it really help to let yourself go there?  It just “is.”

On a practical note, the one thing my HIV has taught me is the importance of exercise to help me tolerate my meds. I think my workouts are as important as the meds themselves. Also, I alleviate stress in my life; stress kills! I also spend time trying to tweak my thinking, looking at – and accepting – what I can change and what I cannot. It’s simple enough and it becomes easier the more I practice it!

The fact is I live with a virus called HIV; it is a part of me, like an old friend. At times we challenge each other.  But it’s clear to me now that those questions “How?” and “Why?” are irrelevant.  They do not support my constitution; they inhibit my growth as a human being.

Though it may be cliché, I actually am thankful to my HIV; it has given me perspective and pushed me to pursue my passions because I don’t know how much time I have left on this earth.  I have truly learned to appreciate every day.  While I was expecting to be gone within 5 years of my diagnoses, it has now been 25 years and the light of my life has never been brighter. I have someone with whom to share my adventures, and amazing opportunities for the future!

I have been incredibly blessed to have had such strong support and understanding as I’ve told the world about my HIV.  Yes, I have my haters, but I give as little energy to those people as I possibly can. And I practice choosing words that are supportive to myself and others. I do my best not to participate in gossip and trash talk because I am sure it affects my T-cells.  It’s easy to spin in other people’s stories, but it’s also pointless.  And, it’s exhausting!

That’s not to say all stress is bad…. I am a bit of an adrenaline junky.  Now in my 50s, I’ve taken up trapeze, and next year, I’m looking forward to an incredible SCUBA diving trip and a sky dive!

Awareness is my path. Do the people around me make me feel good? They can stay! Those who seem like a black hole and bring me down, I let them go. It’s been a long road to get here, but now that I’m here, I’ve chosen a joyous and happy life!

No one knows how long we have, so all we can do is be at peace with ourselves and make the most of our opportunities. I never thought I would have such a wonderful impact…to be able to try to make everywhere I go better because I was there… to have a purpose! Actually, don’t ask what my purpose is, because it shifts as events present themselves. But right now, it has to do with living outside of myself and being in service to others.

It’s been 25 long years filled with trials, adventures, lessons, and ultimately – at last – love.  I love my life so in turn, I love my HIV; it is a part of me but doesn’t define me.

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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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