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Last Friday I hit up Federation Square in Melbourne along with a handful of other agents of YEAH in the early morning ahead of World AIDS Day. We erected our inflatable condom castle at 7am along with our ‘Wheely Sexy’ game and armed with slap bands, visors, condoms and World AIDS Day ribbons we then spent the morning chatting to Melburnians about sexual health! We encouraged passersby to get involved in a photo campaign asking them to pose with a handwritten message that they wanted to share in light of World AIDS Day. Despite it being very early in the morning it was great to see so many people intrigued by our condom castle and approach us to find out what we were about.
With an 8% increase in HIV infections announced in 2012, the national World AIDS Day message is that HIV is still here. In 2014, Melbourne will host the International AIDS Conference and with 18,000 people estimated to attend it is expected that this will be the largest conference ever held in Melbourne. With young people disproportionally affected by HIV and with 75% of STIs occurring in young people in Australia as Agents of YEAH we feel it’s important for young people to be educated about their sexual health and to share their knowledge with their peers. It is therefore crucial that young people play a major role in HIV prevention and be given a voice at the conference in 2014.
I’ve been volunteering with YEAH since the beginning of the year and have really enjoyed presenting workshops in schools and chatting to youth at festivals. It’s really interesting (and sometimes concerning) gaining an insight into the range of knowledge that young people have about sexual health. I don’t feel that I received a very comprehensive sexual education during high school and without a national curriculum I believe that what YEAH does is indispensable to promoting sexual health amongst young people. I’m very grateful to the training and support I’ve received from Red Aware and encourage anyone who is interested in youth sexual health to get involved!
Gwyneth Lovelace-Tozer, 22, Agent of YEAH