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Myanmar Youth Stars for HIV Response

©UNESCO

Myanmar Youth Stars members voting to select core values of the network. ©UNESCO

07.05.2013

"To empower, advocate and create opportunities for key populations of young people to have access to HIV prevention, care and treatment in an environment where they receive equal rights” is the mission statement of the newly-established Myanmar Youth Stars network, whose members met recently in Yangon in a foundation workshop.

In Myanmar, the HIV epidemic is largely concentrated in nature, with 0.53% prevalence among the adult population. Key populations, including younger cohorts (under age 25), bear a great burden of disease.  HIV prevalence is 9.1% among young female sex workers, 5.7% among young men who have sex with men and 13.7% among young people who inject drugs. According to the 2012 Myanmar Country Progress Report, laws which criminalize behavior of groups who are most at risk remain in place in the country and make effective and open interventions with these populations challenging. Therefore, it is essential for young people from key populations to network among their peers in order to stand up for themselves and lead initiatives in response to HIV in the country. 

In November 2012, UNESCO supported the NewGEN Leadership Short Course Training for emerging young leaders in Myanmar. The training aimed to equip participants the necessary skills to become future leaders in the HIV response. As one of the outcomes of the training, some participants decided to establish a mechanism to increase the participation of young people from key populations in HIV activities. Since then, they have organized monthly meetings to prepare to establish this network, named Myanmar Youth Stars.

Myanmar Youth Stars (MYS) is a network of young people from key populations including young men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, people who sell sex and people living with HIV. Together the members of MYS have committed to organizational values of transparency, support, team spirit, unity and acknowledgement of diverse strengths among members.

I think everyone has values, every organization has values and MYS should have values. We MYS should avoid things that contradict our values.” Aung Kyi Khaing, MYS member.

UNESCO Yangon has been actively supporting the establishment of MYS through capacity building and technical support and guidance.

Nineteen MYS members from various regions including Ayeyarwaddy, Kachin, Kayin, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing and Yangon gathered in April 2013 for a three-day workshop aiming to set up a good foundation for MYS members to become a well-functioning network and to lead effective actions in HIV response. To work towards its vision for Myanmar where “young people are free from risk of getting HIV infection and live healthy lives to their full potential”, MYS will voice young key populations’ needs and concerns on accessing to HIV prevention, care and treatment with various stakeholders. They plan to do this through several mechanisms such as building a strong relationship with other NGOs and government sectors, having their representatives in relevant meetings with various stakeholders, and mobilizing resources to ensure sustainability of the network.

Furthermore, MYS will empower their members through capacity building and information sharing among their members.

Consensus on the network’s goals, objectives and roles and responsibilities of MYS members and its working group were reached during the workshop. MYS members also discussed and prepared their work plan for 2013 – 2014 towards the end of the workshop. Based on this work plan, the working group will continue to meet on a monthly basis and will focus on the development of MYS’ structure, constitution and registration for official recognition. The workshop ended with each member expressing their individual commitment and identifying which activities they would carry out in the next three months. By attending the Foundation workshop, each MYS member has acquired a set of skills for effectively working in the network activities and for strengthening individual connections.  

We need to have more members, to reach more young people. We have set the target to have 198 members by end of July this year. All founding members are responsible for this and will mobilize a greater number of young people from key population

MYS membership is open to any young person from a key population in Myanmar who has volunteer spirit and is willing to commit their time to contribute to the network.

To get more information on how to join MYS, please write to Nagin Lin at msmboy2@gmail.com.

For information on UNESCO response to HIV in Myanmar, please contact:
Dr Yu Yu Aung
HIV/AIDS National Program Officer
UNESCO, Yangon, Myanmar
Phone: 01 542910 -19, ext. 111
Email: yy.aung@unesco.org


Related Links:

Foundation Workshop for Myanmar Youth Stars, Young Key Affected Populations Network in Myanmar 6-8 April 2013

Building new young leaders in Myanmar