Speakers: Erica Lindegren, Toniann Read, and Ann Pickar
Prepared for UUA.org by: Meg Young and Emma Richards, Reporters; Margy Levine Young, Editor
This workshop, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association's YEEHAW (Youth Empowered to Eliminate HIV & AIDS Worldwide) was aimed at educating youth on what they personally could do to contribute to the fight against HIV and AIDS, especially in Africa. Erica Lindegren, a youth from Roswell , Georgia , organized the event, along with Toniann Reed and Ann Pickar. They informed the youth of several disturbing statistics about HIV/AIDS. 3 million die from this disease each year, and 5 million more are infected. Although Africa is inhabited by only about 10% of the world's population, it is estimated that over 60% of HIV/AIDS deaths occur in Africa. In Botswana and Swaziland, over 40% of the population is infected. 60% of those with AIDS in Africa are women, and in the age range of 15-24, it is estimated that between four and ten times as many women are infected as men.
YEEHAW is seeking to change this. They have started a program of Red Ribbon Youth which presents youth with opportunities to raise awareness of AIDS in their communities and raise money to benefit AIDS prevention and treatment. It outlines six opportunities, and if a youth completes one of them then the youth can send in a card to YEEHAW. The youth receives a certificate, and next year at GA, there will be a display about the Red Ribbon Youth and what they did.
Finally, Lindegren called up Adam Gerhardstein from the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy to talk about President Bush's AIDS initiative, PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief). The U.S. government has devoted $15 billion to spend on AIDS relief over five years. However, said Gerhardstein, the government strategies to combat AIDS aren't very successful. The government uses a sexual education program to help people keep safe from infection. Their program is based around the acronym ABC (abstinence, be faithful, condom). The government utilizes one-third of the educational funds within PEPFAR to raise awareness about each of these strategies. Gerhardstein said that a comprehensive education program, like the "Our Whole Lives" program used in many Unitarian Universalist congregations, would be more successful. Gerhardstein also spoke about the government's policy to refuse funding to any country which condones prostitution, without regard to any precautions or restrictions that the country might put in place with regard to prostitution.
To find out more vist YEEHAW.