On Friday, December 4th, the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) held a Youth and HIV/AIDS Meeting at the White House campus. Over 35 young people flew to Washington, DC to participate in our meeting. The meeting attendees were young people from all regions of the country and of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities. HIV positive youth were also well represented in the group.
The meeting's purpose was to gather input on the development of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), which has three primary goals: reducing HIV incidence, increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related health disparities. The young people shared their wide range of ideas and experiences.
Our meeting began with remarks by Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Jeffrey Crowley, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Heather and Jeff spoke about the Administration’s enthusiasm for youth engagement and the importance of the NHAS.
Meeting participants then participated in several presentations by issue experts and youth leaders that provided context on youth and HIV in America.
Our participants then broke out into three small discussion groups focusing on the primary goals of the NHAS: prevention, communication, and youth engagement; challenges and barriers to care, treatment, and adherence that are particular to youth; and population-specific challenges that contribute to disparities in delivery of care. These discussions lasted for 80 minutes, at the end of which each group came back with three to five top-line goals to achieve or problems to solve in their topic area.
Kalpen Modi from the White House Office of Public Engagement closed the meeting with remarks about President Obama’s commitment to youth and youth-related issues.
The Youth and HIV/AIDS meeting went extremely well, as we heard many great suggestions throughout the three hours. For example, attendees suggested that there should be a national youth campaign promoting HIV testing. Meeting participants also mentioned the importance of developing and enhancing youth-friendly care. It was both exciting and inspiring to see so much passion and enthusiasm from the youth leaders who joined us last Friday. As we move ahead, we know that this meeting will help us to ensure that the NHAS meets the needs of young people across the United States.
Natalie Pojman is an Executive Assistant for the Office of National AIDS Policy