Politicians Censor HIV/AIDS Training Programs for Youth: Young People Demand Inclusion, Action at HIV Summit

Michelle Barrett Ferrier
January 1, 1996

It may be in a closet in the White House somewhere, or it may have been put through Ollie North’s shredder or discarded. But the cries of the young people who poured out their hearts and tears onto a giant poster board for President Clinton in May, must still haunt him.

Mr. President, I feel we need your help. The youth need you to speak out about HIV/AIDS. I hope you will...Mr. President, HIV/AIDS is important to us. And it is important to the future. Help us live by helping us learn....Mr. President, please encourage AIDS education for the youth in America....Dear Mr. Clinton, let knowledge go free!...Mr. President, here we gathered. Hear our tears...

More than 160 young people from every state and territory of the United States gathered in Washington, D.C. in May 1995 for the National Youth Summit on HIV Prevention and Education to discuss unmistakable evidence— that HIV infection jeopardizes our next generation.

All too often, youth are left out of the discussions and policymaking on issues that affect their lives. The Summit was designed with youth to give them a forum to discuss HIV and AIDS.

Their recommendations — to parents, the media, communities, policy-makers and to their peers — are summarized in seven core concepts they deem necessary to the promotion of accurate and inclusive HIV/AIDS prevention and education:

First, and most important, is the demand by youth that they have not only a voice, but a real influence in the policy process.

Second, there must be a national coordination of information about youth efforts in this field that is easily accessible.

Third, there must be a comprehensive educational effort that begins in early childhood and continues to adulthood.

Fourth, part of this effort should be to increase the role of peer education.

Fifth, this process must include education of adults, such as parents, teachers, entertainers and spiritual leaders. The success of this process requires their involvement.

Sixth, ensure that any such policies are open to innovation and new ideas.

Lastly, it is imperative that these policies encompass and respect the diversity that is the heart and soul of our nation.

One method the young people devised to gain political influence was through a project called Adopt-a-Youth, where politicians would adopt HIV-educated youth to counsel and educate them. As one youth summarized, "We don't want political power, we want action."

For a copy of the report The National Youth Summit on HIV Prevention and Education, Summary Report and Recommendations, contact the National Association of State Boards of Education, 1012 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314: (800) 220-5183.

Ferrier, Michelle Barrett. "Politicians Censor HIV/AIDS Training Programs for Youth: Young People Demand Inclusion, Action at HIV Summit." Youth Today, January/February 1996, p. 13.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.