As part of AWID’s Getting to Zero project today we are profiling the work of Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) and Yvonne Akoth, a young woman from Kenya, who is GYCA’s Eastern Africa Regional Focal Point. GYCA was founded in 2004 by a group of young people who recognized the potential of young leaders in the HIV response.
Yvonne Akoth, a young woman from Kenya, is GYCA’s Eastern Africa Regional Focal Point. She has seven years of experience working on HIV and AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and Violence Prevention programs. Yvonne’s knowledge of the intersection issues of violence and HIV and AIDS earned her the position as GYCA’s representative to the World Health Organization’s Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA). In her role as representative to the VPA, Yvonne has coordinated the formation of GYCA’s VPA Task Team that will organize efforts among GYCA’s members to end violence that is associated with HIV and AIDS.
With a population of 1.8 billion, today’s generation of young people is the largest in human history. Despite the fact that the youth population is at an all-time high, their unique needs remain unmet. Young people are impacted by HIV/AIDS at an alarmingly disproportionate rate – they make up about 26% of the world’s population, but people between the ages of 15 and 24 incur 40% of new HIV infections worldwide. We know that information and knowledge are powerful tools in preventing the spread of HIV, yet only 34% of the world’s young people have accurate knowledge of how to protect themselves against HIV infection. These young people have specific needs and vulnerabilities, and unfortunately they continue to be underserved and underrepresented in the decision-making processes that affect their health and their lives. It is clear that the world is not doing enough to support young people as stakeholders in the fight to end the global AIDS epidemic.
The only way to achieve an AIDS-free generation is to support young leaders, like Yvonne, who have the capacity to make a lasting impact on the way the world addresses the needs of the world’s most marginalized groups.
GYCA was founded in 2004 by a group of young people who recognized the potential of young leaders in the HIV response. They believed that with a human rights-based approach, youth-focused programming, and capacity building for young people, an organization could create a space in which young people can change the world. Today, GYCA is a global network of more than 7,000 young leaders who work to end the spread of HIV in more than 170 countries. GYCA empowers young people with the knowledge, skills, opportunities, and resources they need to change the world, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or HIV status. At GYCA, young people are not only the beneficiaries of development – they are also passionate and informed partners in achieving a world that is free from HIV/AIDS.
Through a unique series of programs, GYCA invests in young people and provides a platform from which they can amplify their voices and those of their peers and find relevant solutions to the challenges facing their communities. An information-sharing network allows for rapid dissemination of important information between GYCA members, and GYCA’s free E-course program offers youth-centered capacity building opportunities. Through rigorous curricula and a simple online platform GYCA has reached more than 850 young people with critical information on topics such as Project Management, Resource Mobilization, and Political Advocacy. In addition to the E-course material, participants receive toolkits that provide additional strategies and information for sharing their newly acquired knowledge with others. With these toolkits in the hands of passionate young activists, important knowledge sharing continues long after the E-course has finished.
The backbone of GYCA’s global community is its Focal Points program. Twelve member-elected Regional Focal points and more than 50 National Focal Points serve as hubs of GYCA’s network at the community level. Focal Points are young activists who are engaged in the HIV/AIDS response and are uniquely able to reach young key affected populations and underserved young people including young sex workers, young people who use drugs, and young people living with HIV. The needs of these marginalized groups are too often ignored and overlooked by decision-makers. GYCA enables its Focal Points to reach these groups and make sure their needs are recognized and addressed.
For more information on GYCA, or to join them in their efforts to support young leaders, please visit www.gyca.org.