by Sidney Kimball
A delegation of 21 young women from across the globe represented the World YWCA at AIDS 2012, the 19th Annual International AIDS Conference, in Washington, D.C., July 22 to 27. These leaders, all united by the common goal of finding effective solutions and approaches to HIV and AIDS that affirm and protect the rights of women, blogged about their reflections on their experience:
AIDS 2012: Reflections on the First Day
by Brenda Martinez, YWCA USA
Brenda Martinez (far left) of the YWCA USA expressed her reflections on the first day of the gathering. Martinez began the day at 5:30 a.m. and was soon reminded of the great diversity of the World YWCA after her first encounter with a few of the other delegates. “I was quickly exposed to different cultural customs… and quickly reminded that I did not know much of the world,” she expressed. However, the gathering presented a rewarding opportunity to overcome language and cultural barriers as they united around YWCA’s mission and work.
The Collective Voice of our Generation: AIDS 2012
by Jenna Lodge, YWCA USA
and Marcie Martinez, YWCA of Belize
In her blog, Jenna Lodge (left) of the YWCA USA asserts the importance of asking the “hard questions.” Out of all of the presentations from world-renowned speakers, top HIV/AIDS research analysts and victorious individuals thriving with HIV, Lodge says what stood out most was an impromptu conversation she had with six young women while taking a break between sessions. “In our reflections of the different speakers, we all had a common desire to want the conversations and presentations to ‘go there.’” The women agreed they wanted speakers to delve deeper into exploring and sharing real solutions and answers to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Marcie Martinez (right) from the YWCA of Belize adds that at AIDS 2012 she sees many people doing great work in the fight against HIV, but there’s more to be done. “I do believe that we all are missing something in this fight because the numbers for new infections are still very high,” she remarks. “There is still so much to be done, even in my country.”
by Rebecca Phwitiko, World YWCA
Rebecca Phwitiko (left), a World YWCA board member, shares her reflections on the dynamic between faith and sexuality. She affirms that while there is often a disconnect between young people’s religion and their sexual values and activities, most are still involved in a faith community. “Faith organizations need to understand the powerful entity that they can be in addressing public health issues such as the sexual and reproductive health of young women,” she stated as she reflected on the Faith & AIDS 2012 Interfaith Pre-Conference on HIV held at Howard University.
Pushing the Barriers: AIDS 2012
by Hannah Yurkovich, World YWCA
and Dana Awwad, YWCA of Palestine
Hannah Yurkovich (right), a World YWCA intern from Kent University recounts her experience hearing from HIV-positive conference participants. “That which had been a secret not to be disclosed even to one’s closest friends and family was now being shared through detailed personal stories by many of the speakers,” says Yurkovich.
Dana Awwad (left), a biology research lab manager from Palestine, is used to attending conferences from the perspective of a scientist. However, at this year’s AIDS 2012 conference she attended as a YWCA health care advocate and not as a scientist. “The information I am seeking is not the same,” she stated. “Not experimental designs nor scientific data, but approaches, solutions, and success stories.”
AIDS 2012: Discriminado en la Abogacía de la No-Discriminación
by Marjorie H. Cordero, YWCA of Chile
Marjorie H. Cordero (right) also contributed her thoughts on the conference in her native language, Spanish. She traveled to the AIDS 2012 from Chile, and her experience as a visitor in the U.S. contributed to her reflection on the discrimination that people with HIV/AIDS face.
The Need for Young Women to Learn the Basic Science of HIV
by Marian Okondo, World YWCA
Marian Okondo stresses the importance young adults gaining a basic scientific understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment and prevention. “We can empower young women and men living with HIV and AIDS by giving them the resources to learn about their treatment,” she suggests. “Basic science would be able to give a good explanation to the individual and most likely provide the shock value needed to push the individuals to adhere to treatment.”
AIDS 2012: From Darkness to Light
by Maria Ziwenge, YWCA of Zimbabwe
and By Haidy Sidky Riad, YWCA of Egypt
Maria Ziwenge (left) was a keynote speaker at Faith & AIDS 2012 Interfaith Pre-Conference on HIV. She describes her experience of coming to the United States, including waking up at 4:00 a.m. to practice her speech, and the nervousness that comes along with public speaking. But Ziwenge overcame her fears and delivered her important message. The applause from the audience “felt something like a stone rolling from my heart.”
Haidy Sidky (right) traveled outside of Egypt for the first time to attend AIDS 2012. “It was truly a great opportunity,” she said. After listening to many international leaders speak she concludes that “Now we need to affirm that we will live without HIV, mothers will live without it and children will be born without it.”
Sidney Kimball, external communications intern at the YWCA USA, has been living and working in Washington D.C. for the last two months. She is a rising senior at the University of California, Davis, studying International Relations and Spanish.