Every December 1 since 1988, the World AIDS Day is celebrated to raise public awareness of HIV prevention and treatment options and to show support to people living with the virus, who are still discriminated and stigmatized in many situations.
In the last 15 years, new HIV infections in the world fell by 35% and mortality decreased by 42%. Teenagers, however, is the only group where the number of deaths related to AIDS do not diminish but tripled since 2000. It is, in fact, the second leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide, with 26 new infections every hour among people aged 15 to 19 years according to the latest data by UNICEF.
To provide adolescents living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean an opportunity to share their stories and send a message of prevention given these alarming figures, UNICEF in the region has invited for the first time several HIV positive young people to take control of our Twitter accounts on December 1. They will share with thousands of people their inspiring testimonies based on personal experiences and their work as activists for the recognition of their rights and those of other people in the same situation.
Each of the young people -aged between 17 and 27 years and living in Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala – will tweet and answer questions or comments from the audience from the regional @uniceflac account, as well as from the accounts of the UNICEF offices in their respective countries (@unicefbrasil, @unicefmexico and @unicefguatemala). All their participations may also be followed from the UNICEF accounts in Dominican Republic (@unicefrd) and El Salvador (@unicefsv), who have kindly provided their profiles to amplify the reach of these powerful messages that want to be an inspiration for other young people in this situation, to promote prevention and to end the stigma that still weighs on many young people living with HIV in our region.
How can you participate?
From 9am to 1pm (Panama/New York time, GMT-5), every participant will take over of different UNICEF Twitter accounts.
You can read their messages by following the tweets posted on the UNICEF accounts or by following the hashtag #VocesPositivas (Positive Voices) (and you don’t need to have a Twitter account for this, just click here).
We invite you to retweet their words to make their messages reach more people and ask them about their experiences on the main issues and challenges faced by HIV-positive youth in Latin America and the Caribbean, and about their motivation to be activists in defense of the rights of these people.
After the initiative, we will collect their messages on Storify stories to be read by those who could not attend the live event.
Who will tweet from UNICEF accounts in the region on December 1?
Jonatan, 27, Brazil: Jon lives in the city of Cascavel, Parana, and he is studying the last year of nursing. Living with HIV for six years, he took his first dose of antiretroviral three years ago and got his viral load undetectable from the third month of treatment. He says that living with HIV is not easy because it requires effort and dedication, especially against prejudice and discrimination still perceived in his daily life. “I do not want to have to hide as if I had committed a crime or done something wrong. I just want to be happy”, he says. He hopes not to be remembered in the future as someone who had HIV and died of AIDS, but as a man who lived fighting for a better life for all people, regardless of their HIV status.
Follow Jonatan’s participation on the Twitter accounts with the hashtag #VocesPositivas
Noel, 17, Guatemala: Born in a community in the southwest of Guatemala, he lived a childhood marked by sexual abuses by three people in his immediate environment. After he realized about his sexual orientation, he suffered rejection from his family, which made him seek refuge in social networks where he agreed encounters with other men. After a while he noticed that his health was suffering and he was sick all the time, to the point of weighing 104 pounds and having paralyzed half of his body. That was when he was diagnosed with HIV in critical condition. Today, four months later, Noel has regained his weight and travels from his community at 4:30 a.m. to receive treatment at the health center.
Follow Noel’s participation on the Twitter accounts with the hashtag #VocesPositivas
Rubén, 20, Mexico: Ruben lives in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Since he discovered he was HIV positive when he was 16, he became a strong activist for the rights of people in his situation and became a member of the Mexican Alliance of Youth with HIV, the Network of Latin American Positives Young People (J+) and he is a volunteer at VIHas de Vida, Comprehensive Care Center in HIV-AIDS. He loves social media and promotes his work against discrimination and HIV from his several accounts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, so this December 1 he will be sharing his testimony at this UNICEF initiative together with other #VocesPositivas (Positive Voices).
Follow Ruben’s participation on the Twitter accounts with the hashtag #VocesPositivas.
Marcos Gonzalez is responsible for digital contents at the UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office.
All photos are courtesy of the Twitter Takeover participants.