Welcome to the first blog from the Young Leaders Summit in Oslo, Norway. Day one of the Young Leader's Summit has begun! As the Summit reporter, I will be blogging over the next three days to update on progress and outcomes as the meeting moves forward.
"We are here to talk about the future- but more importantly we are here to make the future" said Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit in her opening remarks welcoming the young participants. Over 30 young leaders from around the world have congregated today in Oslo, Norway here at the Losby Gods Hotel.
Summit participants kicked the meeting off with passionate discussions sharing stories, challenges and strategies from their local communities on HIV-related stigma and discrimination and youth leadership. Key issues addressed have been strategic engagement of the media, funding for youth led-initiatives, sustained youth leadership and better supports for the engagement of young people living with HIV.
Stephanie Raper, 17, of Melbourne, Australia shared her powerful story of being born with HIV and the intense stigma and discrimination her family has faced since she disclosed her diagnosis to her catholic high-school back home. Stephanie and other participants who are either living with HIV or directly affected by HIV shared their personal stories of how stigma and discrimination limits the human rights of people living with HIV and their ability to realize dreams and ambitions, including access medical services, care and restrictions on travel and mobility. Speakers highlighted that an injustice to any individual is an injustice to us all.
During the morning press conference, when asked by reporters why stigma and discrimination is still present after 25 years of the epidemic, Himakshi Piplani a law student from India and Summit organiser said "HIV-related stigma and discrimination acts as a mirror being held up to society and shows us all the inequalities of those who we push to the periphery, but young people are now standing up and highlighting the core values of our society that we hold strong and moving forward into the future with compassion and respect for human rights, which is essential for changing discriminatory attitudes".
Over the three days of the Summit young leaders will work together with advisors in an intergenerational dialogue to build connections and support to develop concrete action-oriented solutions to the complex challenges identified. Outcome recommendations will focus on developing concrete policy recommendations toward the aids 2031 Agenda for the Future report, influencing the Youth Force agenda for the Vienna 2010 International AIDS Conference, the development of a global mentorship programme for young people and a global young leader's fund.
"Throughout the meeting we must remember our politics and our fierceness... we will not allow for policy decisions to be made without the direct input of young people from around the world" said Lateefah Simon of San Francisco, USA, one of the Summit facilitators.
During his opening remarks, The Norwegian Minster of Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim underlined the vital need for young people to develop their own solutions for the global HIV response, saying "you are changing minds and giving people hope, the struggle needs your ideas, passion and commitment".
At the end of the day all the Summit participants are going to a reception at Olso City Hall hosted the by the Mayor and then there will be a barbeque at Aksept a support and care centre in Olso for people living with HIV, where Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit regularly volunteers.
Young leaders will be video blogging throughout the summit, so make sure to check the YouTube page.
There also a Twitter page and Facebook account to keep you connected to the meeting.
I look forward to sharing more with you tomorrow!