HIV Young Leaders Fund

Editor’s Note: This guest post comes from Caitlin L. Chandler and Jaevion Nelson at the HIV Young Leaders Fund, a project of Tides.

This World AIDS Day, we have much to reflect on about our current HIV response. In 2011, a groundbreaking study by the National Institute of Health revealed that HIV treatment called antiretroviral therapy is 96% effective in reducing HIV transmission in couples where one partner has HIV. However, this incredible news has not resulted in increased funding for critical HIV treatment and other services.

Last week the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria decided to postpone its next round of funding for essential prevention, treatment, care and support services for the three diseases due to insufficient funds until 2014. Millions of people will be affected and unable to access the care they need, resulting in increased sickness and death.

As the world looks towards the future of the AIDS response, there is a critical need to enable a new generation of advocacy, activism, and action that can contribute to changing the unacceptable reality of a world in which some people get sick and die, while others access medicine and live.

Young people today already lead the HIV response at many levels, utilizing new perspectives, networks and ideas, but they aren’t sufficiently resourced. HIV Young Leaders Fund, a Tides project, works to ensure youth-led organizations and initiatives focused on young people most affected by HIV have the funding and support to amplify their work.

HYLF provides small grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 for peer-based services, advocacy, and community mobilization and needs-based technical assistance relevant to the grant. HYLF also facilitates the sharing of knowledge gained through its grantees with the broader HIV response. HYLF is entirely youth-led and governed, with grantees selected through a Community Review Panel of young people working at the country level, ensuring HYLF is relevant and accountable to most affected communities. HYLF’s unique structure works to develop leadership capacity at all levels of the organization.

In 2010, HYLF awarded its first round of grants to twenty-three youth-led initiatives in nineteen countries, and in 2011, HYLF made seven new grants in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, as well as re-granting to current grantees. Our Southeast Asia and the Pacific grantees are focusing on young people who use drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and young people living with HIV who are highly affected yet often invisible in their national HIV responses. Our next Request for Proposals will focus on initiatives led by young women who use drugs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where young women are increasingly affected by HIV and face significant barriers in accessing health services. At the grassroots level, a small grant can make a significant difference, and develops the advocates we need to help move our response forward.

On this World AIDS Day, rather than just wearing a red ribbon, take concrete action to contribute to the HIV response by getting informed, making a donation, becoming politically engaged or in another way that makes sense for you – because the future of our response depends on your involvement.

Caitlin L Chandler is the Director of the HIV Young Leaders Fund.  Jaevion Nelson is the Chair of HYLF’s Steering Committee, and also the Executive Director at Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN).