Insights from the United States Conference on AIDS

What Works in Youth HIV recently attended the 20th United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) organized by NMACUSCA continues to attract a diverse audience and welcome all people. Below is a snapshot of the themes we heard throughout the conference about the current state and future of HIV prevention. 

Youth Engagement

During the opening plenary, celebrating USCA’s 20th anniversary, Deondre Moore, NMAC Youth Initiative Scholar and Greater Than AIDS ambassador, spoke to the contributions youth can make in the fight against HIV. “Don’t count my generation out,” Moore reminded USCA attendees.  

In other sessions we heard these suggestions for adults to engage youth:

  • Given a potential generational gap, adult facilitators should consider finding a young person to play the role of “translator” during a workshop.
  • The young person must be able to “break down” what the facilitator shares into easy-to-understand information for their peers.
  • This translator must also be able to explain to the facilitator what youth are sharing that might not be clear.
  • To establish more trusting relationships, give youth opportunities to share their stories and validate their experiences.
  • Respect how youth want to identify. At the conference, Housing Works handed out “What’s Your Pronoun?” buttons and stickers they use to let youth self-identify.

Treatment As Prevention

The conference underscored the progress we have made with biomedical interventions (e.g viral suppression, PreP) in the past five years and how they are playing out in real-world settings. However, challenges remain, such as:

  • The populations most at risk of HIV are not accessing PreP at expected rates. Data show that only 10% of the people starting PreP were African American while 44% of estimated new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. were among African Americans.
  • Just like other biomedical interventions such as birth control pills, behavioral interventions are still needed to help people adhere to their medications.

Community Mobilization

Several sessions this year focused on what works in HIV prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color. One approach to engaging these disproportionately affected youth is to use community mobilization, or outreach to, and collaboration with, different community stakeholders.

Other approaches included:

  • Work with local health departments, especially with disease intervention specialists.
  • Support the formation and sustained meeting of small groups led by youth peers.
  • Coordinate with organizations by delivering resources, distributing information, or bringing mobile testing vans to youth events.
  • Use social media to meet youth where they are.
  • Educate others in the community on the particular challenges faced by LGBTQ youth of color.

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