Empowering adolescents living with HIV in India through TeenGen Leadership Programme
At the young age of nine years old, Pawan was told by his doctor that he is HIV positive. He was left in the care of his uncle and his family after both of his parents died from AIDS-related illnesses. “My clothes and cutleries are often segregated, and they would often confine me in certain areas of the house,” Pawan said. “It was difficult because I faced discrimination from my family. I wanted to end my life.”
Pawan was among the 40 adolescents living with HIV who joined the TeenGen Leadership Programme on 3-7 May 2018 in Goa, India. A local NGO, Human Touch, hosted the workshop with support from UNAIDS India Office and Youth LEAD, a regional network of young key populations in Asia and the Pacific. TeenGen uses interactive games and activities that enable adolescents to participate proactively while at the same time building their knowledge, leadership and communication skills.“TeenGen provided me with the opportunity to learn more about HIV and gain skills that will help me to live a productive life,” he added. “The workshop allows me to work in teams, so I can meet new people and make long-lasting friendships. I also really like the Cat & Mouse game and the trust exercises.”
The participants identified different issues experience by adolescents living with HIV in India including difficulty in adhering to treatment, lack of proper nutrition, misinformation on HIV, and discrimination. “I am grateful to UNAIDS and Youth LEAD for making TeenGen a possibility here in India,” said Chinmay Modi, a young activist from the Network of People Living with HIV and a facilitator at the workshop. “This is the first time we have this kind of programme where adolescents lead, and they are able to discuss their issues with each other.”
“I hope that Goa is just the start and that we will have an opportunity to bring TeenGen to different localities in India,” added Eddy Rudram, Youth LEAD’s Communications Officer. “I am happy to walk away knowing that the participants are going home more confident, capacitated and a better leader in their community.”
A clear outcome of TeenGen is a plan to build an informal network of young people living with HIV in India. This will also be supported by UNAIDS through #uproot, a global, youth-led political agenda based on the principles of equity, inclusion and solidarity, aimed at ending AIDS by 2030 and advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, by tackling the barriers, bigotry and exclusion that jeopardize young people’s health.
“UNAIDS will continue its support to adolescents living with HIV by providing them with a platform to discuss their issues in a safe space,” said Bilali Camara, UNAIDS Country Director for India. “Reaching our Fast-Track targets will not be possible if we do not include adolescents. We cannot and must not leave them behind in the HIV response.”