Uganda Young Positives

Red Ribbon Awards

My motivation for starting Uganda Young Positives (UYP) was after recognizing and acknowledging that whereas the HIV epidemic was hitting young people hardest, the existing interventions were not reaching these young people effectively for the fact that they were adult-led, participation of young people was thin on the ground, young people were more of receivers than contributors, the young people themselves were not mobilized to participate and were not empowered to know the issues affecting them and these issues were not a priority to the HIV and AIDS agenda.

Further to my motivation was my love for equity, equality, access and participation. And having a back ground in Monitoring and Evaluation, it also comes down to asking questions like, why address HIV in the country where young people are disproportionately affected yet interventions are not aligned to the challenge (KYE, KYR approach). And being a GIPA and MIPA model lover and cherisher, my question was how could a country with the largest number of new HIV infections are among young people yet it continues to do business as usual without taking an extra mile to reach out to the young people themselves?

These triggers hard-pressed the mind and called for action of sorts. The starting point was not clear but the central to the thinking process was how can we ensure meaningful participation of young positive people in HIV prevention, care and support services. How can these young people be assets to the fight of HIV in the country and not liabilities? How can they be part of the solution and not part of the problem? How can their expertise be tapped into and put to use that benefits better the HIV agenda? How can they get empowered to know their challenge and craft mechanisms for addressing these challenges themselves, to live normal, meaningful and productive lives and have a sense for achieving their dreams despite the HIV positive status?

All this happened a time when the GNP+ had just introduced models like Positive Prevention, where people living with HIV were expected to be central to HIV and AIDS interventions if meaningful and sustainable impact in HIV approaches was to be realized.

The journey looked dark at the start, with no resources, no funding, no contact office, nothing. It all started during a health week at Makerere University. At this one week gathering, it was very difficult to believe that some of the young people were already struggling with the challenge of living with HIV, others lacked information on where to go about their sexual reproductive health challenges, while others, majority of them in fact, were filled with myths and misconceptions about HIV and AIDS. Having an opportunity to participate and getting the opportunity to sell the idea to the members is one of the greatest achievements I have ever made in my life. The group of young boys and girls infected and affected by HIV accepted to get together gradually to discussing life challenges, and how to live meaningful and productive lives despite the HIV positive diagnosis and or an HIV diagnosis leading to orphan-hood, young motherhood and other related circumstances. The idea was blessed when an opportunity of an International conference for people living with HIV which brought together all people globally to discuss mechanisms of living positively. We were so blesses that all UYP members at the time got scholarships to participate at the conference. This cemented the whole agenda.

The idea was then accepted nationally, cherished by the government, the donor community, the Faith community and by time of writing this message, there is no doubt that the young people in Uganda now have a platform to articulate issues affecting them. There is no doubt that the young people are empowered to demand for services. Young people in Uganda are now exposed to the international arena to call for action on all issues that concern them. In short, the objective of the initiative has been achieved. I thank all friends and well wishers who have made this to happen and still call on them for relentless support and collaboration for us to sustain the achievements and achieve much more.

Sam Ocen
Founder and President

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