The second annual event is June 12-15, 2019…
Anyone who has received an HIV+ diagnosis knows that it changes your life. From the obvious health-related concerns to figuring out how to navigate things like your career, friendships, relationships and dating, being HIV+ can be daunting—especially if you feel like you’re in it alone.
The HYPE Summit, which will be held in Niagara Falls from June 12-15 this year, was created to help HIV+ youth find out more about not only about the health resources available to them, but also connect with other people who have been through and are going through the same struggles as they are.
The Summit, which is completely free for youth, is the brainchild of Adrian Betts, the Executive Director of the AIDS Committee of Durham Region. He had worked with many HIV+ individuals but the idea for the Summit came to him thanks to a HIV+ young woman who refused to take her medication or listen to her service providers. It wasn’t until sfter she had the opportunity to speak to another HIV+ woman that she started following her treatment plan consistently. For Betts, that was proof that HIV+ people can help empower each other to live healthier—and happier—lives.
All young people need to feel like they have somewhere to belong and have people who understand what they are going through. For HIV+ youth, having people to relate to can make a huge difference in their day to day lives.
Muluba Habanyama, the Provincial Positive Youth Transition Coordinator for the AIDS Committee of Durham Region understands the struggles all too well being HIV positive herself. “Youth living with HIV are going through many transitional periods in life. Career finding, crushes, break ups, health ups and downs, losses, and random mood swings. Having a heavily stigmatized lifetime virus can make us feel trapped, and very alone. To meet people that are going through the same thing is life changing. I speak from experience. We find people to grieve with, take medications with, and share some deep secrets with.”
The Summit is designed for both HIV+ youth and the service providers who interact with them on a regular basis. Youth participants at the summit can expect interactive workshops on disclosure, self-advocacy, sexual health and more. Service providers (doctors, nurses, social workers, community organizers, researchers) can attend sessions on medication adherence, trauma informed care, and have the opportunity to hear directly from youth living with HIV.
The HYPE Summit is designed to bring HIV+ people together and give them the opportunity to be heard both by service providers and by their very own community. It’s also another step towards destigmatizing HIV and helping poz people live the fulfilling life they deserve.