youth activism

On Saturday, March 7th, Our Viral Lives hosted its launch event, “We Are Here” at The Bureau of General Services- Queer Division. Four under 30 activists (Kia Labeija, Martez Smith, Mathew Rodriguez and Charlie Ferrusi) were invited to speak about their personal relationships to HIV/AIDS and their activist work to a full audience. I wanted to provide a summary of the evening and offer a few thoughts about moving forward.

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On March 7th, Our Viral Lives is launching its first event in NYC called “We Are Here: Youth Activists Talk HIV/AIDS” at the Bureau of General Services – Queer Division. Four youth activists will be speaking on their work around HIV/AIDS from a diverse range of perspectives.

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There are so many urgent problems worth solving in this world that it becomes difficult to decide what your focus will be. Focus should not be assumed as such an absolute. Instead, it should be considered a method for approaching one particular social problem in a way that promotes better equity and innovates in some way. A problem like HIV/AIDS can never be “solved” and one “solution” will always be ineffective, but there is, at least, space for new targeted prevention and treatment programs to pop up, and better yet, there are ways in which we have failed whole populations for decades and are finally recognizing our errors.

When it comes to the HIV/AIDS crisis, nothing is too late because it’s a crisis that endures. It’s a crisis that, despite all of the dollars and knowledge and political will (depending on where you live), remains intractable. My background might not be in public policy nor have I worked directly with health organizations in an official capacity, but it’s not impossible to envision solutions given my background in HIV/AIDS history, contemporary art, and storytelling. My own story begins again and again. The narrative of my sexual history and consciousness has meandered many times, calling into question the crux of why HIV/AIDS remains omnipresent in queer communities: the interplay between identity and desire.

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In recent years, this has been an alarming rise in new HIV infections among youth ages 18-30. One group of 28 individuals came together to address the challenges in HIV prevention, treatment, research, and broader cultural stigma. This is their video. What do think of their work? What are some other strategies you might recommend in dealing with HIV/AIDS in an under 30 crowd? Share your ideas in the comments section.