This year the 21st International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2016, returns to Durban for the first time since the landmark conference of 2000, where a global movement was launched to bring life-saving treatment to the those affected by HIV and AIDS.

One of the highlights of AIDS 2016 will be a pop-up radio station hosted and produced by young reporters from the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF) in South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The reporters plan to produce 40 hours of radio, which, broadcast by CRF partner stations, will be heard by 8 million people across Africa.

Nearly 16 million people remain on HIV treatment worldwide and many obstacles still exist, particularly for young people. While new HIV infections have declined since 2000, HIV-related adolescent deaths have risen sharply, especially among 15- to 19-year-old males, calling for policies and approaches that are adolescent-sensitive.

“It’s extremely important to support platforms that encourage youth to share their experiences and perspectives on issues that matter to them,” says Mike Rahfaldt, Executive Director, Children’s Radio Foundation. “Across Africa, in most communities, radio is the most powerful medium to achieve this. Radio gets youth together to learn from each other’s challenges, and to come up with local solutions to local problems. People’s communities, the ways that they discuss issues, and available services reflect their local context. Radio is also local, and can therefore dig deep on issues in ways that resonate.”

The young reporters will challenge delegates and experts to engage with them on topics such as stigma, LGBTI issues, treatment and youth-friendly services, bringing a ‘hard talk’ youth angle to this important global event. The reporters will also have the opportunity to interview leading scientists and policy makers from around the world, as well as engaging young people in developing their own ‘call to action’ for adolescent HIV policy.

The team of 16 youth reporters have honed their radio skills in the areas of research, interviewing, and content production. They are all involved in regular broadcasting and “narrow-casting” for their respective local community and school stations. With the pop-up station at AIDS 2016, they hope to foster youth expression, debate, and to keep decision-makers on their toes and hold them to account.

Some of the young South African reporters include Yolanda Pityoi (25) from Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Yolanda joined the project in 2014, producing and hosting youth dialogue events at Nolungile Youth Clinic in Khayelitsha, where she and her team transformed the clinic space to fill it with music, dance, poetry, dialogue and debate. Ahead of AIDS 2016, Yolanda Pityoi says, “Let’s break away from the HIV stigma and let us be young and free. I’m looking forward to meeting young people from different countries, sharing views and opinions on HIV and AIDS and people’s experiences of it. Through radio and conversation, we will be able to touch young people’s minds and hearts and talk freely about whatever they want.”

Another reporter is Velisa Jara (30) also from Khayelitsha in Cape Town. Velisa is lead facilitator for a group of youth reporters, and with her passion for and expertise in photography she has trained her group in a new form of storytelling, audio slideshows. “What is different and exciting is that usually stories about young people in South Africa are told by visitors or outsiders. When I listen to people’s stories, it is exciting for me as a young black photographer and facilitator to be able to tell another young black South African’s story. With the pop-up station at AIDS 2016, we will be able to take these stories across South Africa and the world”, says Velisa.

For the pop-up station’s full programme and to follow the youth reporters live, go to the Children’s Radio Foundation website and follow them on social media via Facebook, Instagram
and Twitter.

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