Putting the XVII International AIDS Conference Online

Article published on July 18, 2008
Article published on July 18, 2008
In July 2010 Vienna will host the XVIII International AIDS Conference (IAC 2008), bringing the largest professional conference addressing the HIV and AIDS epidemic into the heart of Europe.
Before they descend on the wide boulevards and majestic plazas of Vienna the many activists, researchers, politicians, health practitioners, people living with HIV, and others who make up the worldwide response to HIV and AIDS are busy readying themselves for the 2008 conference, which is getting underway in Mexico City at the beginning of August. Included amongst those people are perhaps the most important demographic in the response to HIV and AIDS – youth. Why are youth so important? Let's sum it up in three sentences: Half of new HIV infections are amongst those between 15 and 24 years of age. According to UNAIDS there were approximately 2.5 million new infections in 2007. This means that over a million youth were newly infected with HIV last year.

Grim statistics like these mean that the role of youth in the fight against HIV and AIDS is crucial. Youth are living with HIV and AIDS and more youth are being infected every day, but they are not only sufferers – they are leaders in this fight and hundreds of them will be assuming this role in Mexico City in only a few weeks time. The Mexico City YouthForce is a coalition of organizations dedicated to increasing and supporting youth participation at the International AIDS Conference, which has been present at each IAC since its creation in 2000 at the conference in Durban, South Africa. The YouthForce will be preparing youth delegates to IAC 2008 to be effective advocates for youth issues, providing a youth-friendly space for them at the conference, and helping them to make connections with other youth as well as the many professionals attending. The cost of attending IAC 2008 means that not all youth who are affected by or working in the fight against HIV and AIDS will get to be there in person, but thanks to technology this is no longer the barrier it once was.

A team of Youth Journalists will be amongst the hundreds of youth delegates at IAC 2008 whose task will be to cover the people/issues/events/developments relevant to youth and report on them from a youth perspective. Their coverage will allow youth all over the world to tune in to the conference online and stay updated on the progress/achievements/experiences of the youth delegates as they bring a strong voice for young people affected by HIV and AIDS worldwide to IAC 2008. In order to do this the Youth Journalists will be armed with Nokia's N95 phone, generously donated by Finnish telecommunications giant Nokia. With this 'smartphone' Youth Journalists will be capturing the conference through video, photography and podcasting, and posting it directly to the web. Tools like these are allowing more and more youth to feel involved in international conferences like IAC 2008, they provide eyes and ears to youth who might normally never have the means to participate in person.

We're really excited about the Youth Journalist team that has been put together this year – it includes youth from Norway, Austria, USA, Bangladesh, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, UK, and Haiti, who will be blogging, podcasting, photographing and videotaping their way through IAC 2008. Look out for their coverage on the official YouthForce website – www.youthaids2008.com!