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Baltimore Youth Summit Brings Together HIV-Positive Youth from USA and Africa

Thursday, September 16, 2010

 Dr. Ligia Peralta hopes this summit will inspire teens to become future leaders in the fight against HIV.

Young People Will Share Ideas and Make Recommendations on HIV Outreach and Care

On September 16, The University of Maryland School of Medicine, in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services, held an International Youth Leadership Summit in which a delegation of HIV-affected and infected young people from Africa met with HIV-affected and infected youth from Baltimore and across the country to exchange ideas and come up with recommendations for how HIV can best be prevented and managed in young people throughout the world.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) brought to Baltimore four HIV-positive young people from Africa who are beneficiaries of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Program. OVC is an outreach program of the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which CRS administers in Africa. The four youths will meet with about 15 Americans ages 18 to 24. The American youth are members of a national Community Advisory Board set up as part of the Adolescent Trials Network, a network of centers established by the National Institutes of Health to study HIV in youth. The advisory boards, comprised of local youth, provide advice and consultation on research topics, protocols and more. The young people gathering in Baltimore for the summit included seven members of the advisory board from the Special Teens at Risk, Together Reaching Access, Care and Knowledge (STAR TRACK) program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The rest came from advisory boards in Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York, Tampa, New Orleans and Chicago.

Four medical students from the University of Maryland mediated the summit. The youths shared ideas about leadership in HIV prevention, research and program development, psychosocial interventions for HIV-positive youth, how to employ social media and email between youth and their health care providers, and how and when to transition patients from adolescent to adult care for HIV. They considered critical issues such as how to convince teens to adhere to their medication regimens, and discussed techniques used in Africa and the U.S. Later in the day they presented their recommendations to a group of 20 national leaders in the fields of adolescent health, policy and HIV, including doctors, nurses, policymakers and advocates.

“Youth represent the highest percentage of new HIV infection of any age group in the United States,” says Ligia Peralta, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “This burden underscores the need to provide them with fora to express their ideas, which are critical in the development of appropriate prevention, clinical and research program for adolescents and young adults. This summit is a critical venue to foster young people to become future leaders in the fight against HIV.”

“The assumption is that we here in developed countries know what’s best, but the truth is, we can actually learn from Africa about what works there,” says Mychelle Farmer, M.D., HIV technical advisor with CRS, who has helped organize the summit. “I think we have a lot to learn from other countries and I’m hoping this is a dialogue that is going to grow.”

Media are welcome to speak to the participants regarding this event; many of the young adults are outspoken about their HIV status and comfortable speaking with the media. For more information, please contact: Karen Buckelew, University of Maryland School of Medicine at (410) 706-7590 or kbuckelew@som.umaryland.edu. Or contact Kim Pozniak and Michael Hill of CRS at (410) 951.7281 or kpozniak@crs.org and mhill@crs.org.

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