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A message from the Montreal Youth Force
The Youth Force is a global platform for young people to take part in the International AIDS Conference, not only as delegates, but also as activity organizers, youth advocates and leaders. This year, the Youth Force is hosted by LetsStopAIDS and is made up of 55 individuals representing about 20 countries. It is a collective of 12 local and international youth-led and youth-serving AIDS service organizations that are committed to creating a safe space for young people at the conference.
Young people are not a homogeneous group; we are strong in our diversity. The Youth Force brings young people from different communities together to collectively learn, network and advocate.
There were only a handful of young people at AIDS 2000, the 13th International AIDS Conference, in Durban, South Africa. After a speech at AIDS 2000 by Nkosi Johnson, aged 11, “youth” was recognized as an important stakeholder in the HIV response. The Youth Force initiative was formed after his death in 2001 as a response to the lack of support for young people.
- To structurally destigmatize HIV and contribute to the prevention of new HIV acquisitions by empowering young people
- To mobilize young people to participate in the AIDS conference
- To provide young people with the platform and opportunity to engage in active participation so that there is youth involvement at the AIDS conference
- To represent youth voices in the HIV response and ensure that youth voices are heard
Our key messages
We have a VOICE
Laws and policies should reflect the diverse needs of young people. This starts with our voices being heard and valued.
As young people, we deserve a seat at the table when decisions affect our lives. We need meaningful participation at all stages and levels of policy-making processes. Funders have to actively invest in community leaders. Young people are not just one homogeneous group, we are strong in our diversity. Young people experience many realities: we live with HIV; we identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and/or queer (LGBTIQ+); we are women; we are sex workers; we use drugs; we live with disabilities; we are people of colour; we live in poverty; we are migrants and/or displaced. Our struggle is interconnected, our identities are intersectional and we can belong to many marginalized groups at the same time. Laws and policies must reflect our diverse needs and this starts with our voices being heard and valued.
We demand JUSTICE
The HIV response is a human rights movement. We demand justice to end stigma and discrimination.
Human rights and gender equality must be at the centre of the HIV and AIDS response. Policy makers and other people in power must act boldly to end stigma, discrimination and criminalization. The COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened inequalities, making marginalized groups even more vulnerable. Inclusive economic development is a precondition for social justice. We need to live free of poverty and violence. Sexual and gender-based violence and forced sterilizations of women living with HIV have to end.
We want a CHOICE
Through quality services and information, we can make informed choices about our health.
As young people, we need to be able to make informed decisions about our sexuality and health. To make these choices, we need access to quality services and information. This includes access to HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention, sexual and reproductive health services, mental health support and harm reduction for people who use drugs. Comprehensive sexuality education, both in and out of schools, can save lives. Health systems must be strengthened to meet the diverse needs of young people.
Where to find the Youth Force at AIDS 2022
The youth pre-conference will take place on 28 July from 14:00 to 17:30 EDT. The aim of the pre-conference is to prepare youth participants for the main conference and teach them the necessary advocacy skills to advocate for themselves at the conference.
The Youth Pavilion is a space for young people to network, collaborate and showcase achievements from around the world. The Youth Pavilion will be located in the Global Village during the conference from 30 July to 1 August. In the pavilion, activities will include workshops, networking events, performances and exhibitions.
The youth reception will take place on 31 July from 18:30 to 20:30 EDT. This cocktail event will celebrate young people and allow them to meet stakeholders in an informal setting.
Connect with the Youth Force
LetsStopAIDS is Canada’s largest youth HIV charity. It has continuously led local and global efforts relating to greater youth involvement in the HIV response by inspiring young people to take action relating to HIV within their local communities. At AIDS 2022, LetsStopAIDS is the host organization of the Youth Force and is responsible for managing the creation and development of the Montreal Youth Force, as well as the execution of its activities. LetsStopAIDS is pleased to partner with the International AIDS Society for AIDS 2022 to promote youth involvement in the HIV response.
Shamin Mohamed Jr
Shamin is the founder and President of LetsStopAIDS. His activism over the past 18 years saw him recognized at the age of 15 among Canada’s “Top 20 under 20”. His response to the global youth HIV epidemic has made positive impacts on over 72 countries. As one of the founding members of DECIEM, a multinational skincare company, Shamin possesses a unique perspective on organizational leadership. He has been an invited guest at several UN events, as well as the International AIDS Conference. He continues to use his voice to speak out for global youth HIV issues.
Tatiana, PMP, MBA, began her career with Fundação Dom Cabral, a business school in Brazil, gaining experience in the education space while establishing herself as a respected Project Director. Currently working as a National Manager for LetsStopAIDS, where she started as a volunteer Program Manager, Tatiana is in charge of leading the Montreal Youth Force initiative alongside the LetsStopAIDS team; she is responsible for all national programmes. Her desire to contribute and work within the HIV and AIDS field came from a need to spread information after some relatives acquired HIV. Passionate about people, mentorship and leadership, she intends, through LetsStopAIDS projects, to promote change and knowledge exchange among young people. Her professional and personal projects have taken her to Canada, and she is proud to call Toronto home.
Rhian is Project Coordinator at LetsStopAIDS and is currently coordinating the Montreal Youth Force, as well as other LetsStopAIDS projects, including NoTimeToWait, a youth HIV leadership conference. Her projects focus on raising awareness about HIV among young people, helping young people develop advocacy and leadership skills, and inspiring them to take action and make positive changes in their communities. As a former language teacher, Rhian has worked with young people in university and school settings. She has also volunteered and worked in non-profit organizations, particularly in environment and health-related fields. She is committed to helping make the world a more sustainable, safe and inclusive place for current and future generations.
Ogonna works at LetsStopAIDS, where she coordinates the activities of the Montreal Youth Force. She is a Nigerian-trained medical doctor and has been involved in managing clients with HIV and AIDS, providing medical care among resource-depleted communities, organizing outreach programmes and creating digital tools that improve access to health services. She has a keen interest in developing public health projects that address the needs of underserved populations.
Youth Force working groups
Erika Dupuis (The PACT), International Co-Chair
Erika (she/they) is a social worker and youth engagement organizer based on the unceded and traditional lands of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island, currently known as the greater Toronto area. Primarily working in global health advocacy, Erika organizes within the intersections of gender equality, drug policy and sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice. Erika currently works with UN Women and Harm Reduction International. In addition, Erika is the Country Coordinator for the Canadian Chapter of the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning and sits as Vice-Chair of The PACT and PMNCH’s NGO Constituency.
Mitchell Rae (Project 10), Local Co-chair
Mitchell (masculine pronouns) works as the Executive Director of Project 10, a non-profit community organization dedicated to supporting the well-being of 2SLGBTQIA+ young people between the ages of 14 and 25 in the Greater Montreal Area. Mitchell is also a graduate student focusing on the way that white racial identity operates to the detriment of people of colour. In his spare time, Mitchell co-founded ChamPaint Montreal, which hosts art events for young Black, Indigenous and people of colour to share stories about their lived experiences as racialized people.
Communications and advocacy
Mickey Andeweg (Hivos), International Co-Chair
Mickey (1991) is a global advocacy officer at Hivos, working to strengthen the position of young people and LGBTIQ+ people worldwide. From the age of 16, Mickey has been involved in influencing policies to protect human rights and achieve gender equality. Working with leaders from four continents, Mickey facilitates dialogues between policy makers and activists. Mickey has also worked for CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Aidsfonds and the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
Asha Ulusow (LetsStopAIDS), Local Co-Chair
Asha works at St. Stephen’s Community House (TNG), Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Blackcap) and LetsStopAIDS. She is a child and youth care practitioner. Asha is working towards fostering youth involvement and innovation in key issues that affect their lives. She is dedicated to elevating the experiences and expertise of young Black, Indigenous and people of colour, especially those who are living with HIV in Canada. Asha has spent most of her career talking to and encouraging conversations about taboo topics in her community, such as mental health, addiction and sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, mainly HIV and AIDS, in the hope of lessening the stigma surrounding them.
Maxwell Changombe(Restless Development), International Co-Chair
Maxwell is the Programs Coordinator with the Restless Development Zimbabwe Hub. His focus is on creating a global community of activists committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 through collaboration, conversation, awareness, youth engagement, public support and campaigning together on issues that young people care about. These issues include testing and prevention education, more funding for the HIV response, and an end to all forms of discrimination. Maxwell is working with Youth Ambassadors from 15 countries who are committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, promoting their leadership in the HIV response and providing opportunities to strengthen their skills as a new generation of advocates. He also worked on other projects, including, #GenEndIt, Peak Youth Tackling HIV, and International Citizen Service. Maxwell trusts #YouthPower and believes that enhancing their leadership skills will be the game changer in ending AIDS as an epidemic by 2030.
Kaweme Chunga (Y+ Global), International Co-Chair
Kaweme is a current Vice Chair on the Y+ Global board and a law graduate from the UK. Her experience includes educating people in schools on HIV to help reduce stigma, as well as strongly advocating and promoting the ethical and meaningful engagement of young people, their rights, dignity and well-being in policy- and decision-making spaces. In her spare time, Kaweme is a transformational youth coach and mentor, and founder of Anchor of Destiny, where the belief is that if you mentor the youth, you mentor the land.
Asif Umair, Local Co-Chair
Asif is a social and sports activist. He is a PhD scholar at UQAM Montreal Canada. He explores social and health development through sports-based interventions. He is also the founder of Kafka Welfare Organization Pakistan, which has been doing advocacy on HIV and AIDS issues.
Logistics and operations
Cosima Lenz (EGPAF), International Co-Chair
Cosima is a technical officer supporting adolescent, youth and child programmes at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). Working on the global Technical Strategy and Innovations team, Cosima supports projects to develop training, technical tools, guidance and innovation and implementation of programming. Her focus technical areas are adolescent and youth SRH and HIV and gender-based violence. Cosima also coordinates the Committee of African Youth Advisors, EGPAF’s meaningful engagement mechanism.
Stephen Brace (ACCM), Local Co-Chair
Stephen is the Local Co-Chair for the logistics and operations working group representing AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM).
Fundraising and events
Damilare Oyedele (The PACT), International Co-Chair
Damilare is The PACT Partnership & Resources Mobilization Co-Lead; he works on partnership development to mobilize resources for the organization. Damilare joined The PACT to contribute to advancing its mission to create spaces for young people and their networks to meet, network and chart a pathway to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. He has a keen interest in equitable access to information and knowledge development. He, therefore, works with the team to explore opportunities to strategically position the need to promote equitable access to information and knowledge about sexual and reproductive health to young people. Damilare is currently a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, studying global challenges at the African Leadership University, Kigali, Rwanda.
Yvonne Su (LetsStopAIDS), Local Co-Chair
Yvonne is the Local Co-Chair on the Fundraising, Events and Sponsorship Working Group of the Youth Force for LetsStopAIDS. Yvonne is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Equity Studies at York University. She is an expert on international development and has studied force migration and queer migration in many low- and middle-income countries. She holds a PhD in political science and international development from the University of Guelph and a Master’s in refugee and forced migration studies from the University of Oxford. She is a faculty fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research.
© Copyright 2022 IAS – the International AIDS Society