KHAYELITSHA TOWNSHIP, South Africa — Some of the world’s most exceptional young leaders have gathered for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) this week in Cape Town, South Africa, to tackle one of the most pressing global health problems – the HIV crisis in Africa. The Forum of Young Global Leaders (YGL) is a unique, multi-stakeholder community of young leaders committed to shaping the global future, with a focus on collective action and tangible results.
As part of the week’s events, PSI’s Kate Roberts, a Young Global Leader since 2007, led a learning journey for about 30 of her contemporaries through one of the poorest townships in South Africa to meet with those most affected by the disease. Kate is vice-president of Corporate Marketing & Communications at PSI and is the founder of YouthAIDS, one of PSI’s global HIV education and prevention programs.
“One of the greatest achievements of the YGL community is its ability to bring creative, intelligent people from a wide variety of backgrounds to the same table and with the same focus – to build creative and lasting solutions to the greatest challenges facing our world,” Kate said. “This learning journey was the first step towards collective action by these extraordinary people in the fight against HIV and AIDS.”
The YGL group first visited a local high school in Khayelitsha, which is just 18 miles from central Cape Town, where the World Economic Forum on Africa was being held. There the YGLs learned about HIV-prevention objectives across Africa and the challenges inherent in the grassroots implementation of those objectives. A short presentation was followed by an interactive session with students from the high school. A YouthAIDS peer educator led a role-play session to highlight dangers, such as cross-generational sex or sexual encounters at a young age. Then, a young HIV-positive student shared her remarkable story with the group.
They also visited the local community hall where an HIV-prevention organization co-founded by Young Global Leader Dennis Karpes, called dance4life was holding an event in partnership with YouthAIDS. Dance4life works throughout South Africa and in 20 other countries worldwide, inspiring and uniting youth, through music and dance, to fight against HIV and AIDS for life. This tour gave YGLs a glimpse at the “edutainment” events that both Dance4life and YouthAIDS use to reach younger generations. The session featured condom demonstrations, role-play exercises and competitions that showed the need for proper and consistent condom use, abstinence and HIV prevention, and stigma reduction. PSI had also set up mobile HIV counseling and testing tents where community members and the YGLs could be tested.
The day ended with a panel discussion focused on creating tangible solutions and meaningful action to reduce the spread of HIV, specifically by harnessing the power of the private sector and through innovative models of success within the sector. Panelists and guests were faced with the question of how to build and apply creative solutions and effective partnership to maintain sustainable progress in the fight against the disease. The outcomes were building blocks for more comprehensive collective action, based on a combined public and private sector approach.