TDN Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship

Taking note from the ECOSOC 2015 Youth Forum, the 53rd Session of Commission for Social Development (CSocD53), the 59th session on the Status of Women (CSW59), the Declaration of the Inaugural World Women’s Health and Development Forum held by the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT), and the 48th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD48), Transdiaspora Network (TDN) recognizes and supports that

the respect, protection and enjoyment of the human rights of children, adolescents and youth in all countries, with particular attention to adolescent girls, are essential to sustainable development;

adolescents and youth in all countries are a major resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation;

development requires the realization of youth’s health rights, access to quality education, youth-friendly health services, and their full, meaningful and effective participation through youth-led organizations in decision making process in public life at the international, regional, national, and local levels;

the engagement of young people and other key populations, particularly in holding stakeholders to account;

the need to strengthen capacity-building of civil society by engaging young men and women in policy-making and implementation respecting their cultural diversity;

the implementation of health-related initiatives that commemorate and welcome the International Decade For People of African Descent;

the need to foster structural solidarity, social sustainability and development partnerships between governmental organizations, financial agencies, civil society entities and subnational health initiatives to prevent new HIV infections among adolescents and youth regardless of their socioeconomic and racial background;

The following is a proposal of Transdiaspora Network (TDN) for the establishment of a Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship (CYEF) to address the global and multidimensional challenges of sustainable youth engagement and capacity building, health promotion, and global cooperation from a constructive, culturally-minded and comprehensive approach.

In the last several years, HIV prevention efforts have increased their focus on people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHA) in addition to addressing risk reduction efforts aimed at HIV-uninfected individuals. The Advancing HIV Prevention Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further highlighted the need to work with PLHA as a key strategy for decreasing the steady rate of new HIV infections in the United States and abroad (CDC, 2003). These interventions, often known as Prevention with Positives (PWP) or Positive Prevention (PP), and more recently as Positive Health, Dignity, and Prevention (GNP+ 2009), provide services for PLHA to address HIV care and prevention needs and to ultimately decrease HIV transmission risk behavior. PP programs ensure that the opportunity to address HIV prevention with infected individuals is not missed.

The TDN Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship (CYEF) is a new effort to enhance the existing model of health promotion, particularly HIV prevention, and work with those communities who lack the quality education to understand the science behind HIV/AIDS, or do not fully embrace the most standardized prevention strategies based in contraceptive or abstinence. This scholarship also aim to be more inclusive in our outreach and engage young people in understanding the need to identify risky behaviors, to change attitudes toward the HIV-related social stigma and increase their level of advocacy and civic engagement among their peers.

TDN, groundbreaking social enterprise organization in the field of youth development and HIV prevention, believes that promoting health among youth goes beyond their physical well-being. As our 15-year-old Youth Affairs Coordinator Nicole Cheng reflects:

“The most effective way of dealing with such issues is education. People must be taught about HIV/AIDS and be aware of the risks. However, what is different about TDN is that we do not merely focus on the science of HIV/AIDS – we deal with it from the primitive level, which involves human expression and the internalization of how to prevent HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, I have watched my peers open up and thus, understand the drastically different states of mind that they have to address when met by a decision. In order for the youth to make the right decision, they must understand themselves and know what the consequences of their actions are.”[1]

This is reaffirmed by our former Youth Advisory Council leader, Kimberly Huggins who believes:

“Through a scholarship and investment in youth development, our organization and partners can truly make significant strides towards an AIDS-free generation by enabling youth as leaders and active agents of change in their communities.”

Through our evidence-based curriculum and fieldwork experience, TDN has developed culturally oriented health promotion methods grounded in youth capacity building, and takes a unique approach to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases among youth.

In order to explain how, it is needed first to briefly explain the three primary methods of preventative medicine: primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention.  Primary prevention uses methods to avoid the occurrence of disease (e.g., condom use in HIV prevention).  Secondary prevention uses methods to diagnose and treat existent disease in early stages before it causes significant morbidity (e.g., to prevent an HIV patient from developing AIDS).  Tertiary prevention uses methods to reduce the negative impact of existent disease by restoring function and reducing disease-related complications (e.g., providing antibiotic prophylaxis in HIV patients that have already developed AIDS).  TDN takes an even earlier approach; it works in the stages of “PRE-primary prevention.”  It changes program participants’ way of thinking and behavior which in turn teaches them prevention.  It empowers them to make informed health-related decisions.

Manipulative advertising and peer pressure often lead adolescents, whose ability to make informed choices is limited, to begin engaging in risky behaviors; once addicted, a person’s capacity to choose not to partake “risky” social interactions is further diminished by the physiological, neurological, and psychological nature of addiction.  Recent research showing a higher incidence of risky behaviors among low-income groups as well as in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) suggests that socioeconomic factors, such as inadequate income or lack of quality education, influence lifestyle behavior.  Given the powerful influence of such factors on behavior, penalizing individuals who engage in high-risk actions “blames the victims” and ignores the true cause of their behavior.

“Adolescents face difficult and often confusing emotional and social pressures as they grow from children into adults,” says Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO HIV/AIDS Department. “Adolescents need health services and support, tailored to their needs.  They are less likely than adults to be tested for HIV and often need more support than adults to help them maintain care and to stick to treatment.”[2]

TDN is not only acting in the present, but investing in the future of healthy young men and women. Our approach to the problem has been an effective one due to the feedback that the organization has received from our constituencies and partner organizations. Also, we have witnessed the behavioral and attitude change in the youth that have been enrolled in our programs and how they have been able to handle the stigma and other issues related to HIV more positively.

The Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship (CYES), a collaborative initiative to be implemented under the framework of the UN 2030 Development Agenda, is presented as a concrete way to foster sustainable partnerships with national governments, civil society entities and local community leaders in the area of youth capacity building and bridge the existing gap to support youth-oriented health promotion projects.

 

[1] TDN Community Blog reflection ‘Breaking Our Own Barriers’, April 10, 2015

[2] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/hiv-adolescents-20131125/en/

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