On World AIDS Day 2020 Youth Advocacy Council Pakistan conducted a one day National Youth Symposium to educate youth and students from partner institutions including CECOS University, Iqra National University, University of Management & Technology Lahore along with development partners such as The Good Thinker Organization, & M & S Research Germany, PYAM media house, funded by Gilead Sciences Inc.
The theme was “Role of Youth, Media, and Academia in tackling HIV/AIDS and stigmatization in Pakistan”. Several national & international speakers delivered keynote speeches and stressed upon using research, media and youth to educate masses about endemic diseases including HIV and AIDS.
The first session on Demystifying HIV/AIDS and STI Transmission among Youth In Pakistan was led by Ms. Jannat Ali, one of the renowned transgender activist and nominee of the HERO Award in Asia. She is the Founder Track-T and a gold medalist in MBA. She emphasized on introducing better and efficient counseling and testing services, and proposed to establish an online HIV/AIDS Helpline. Responding to her suggestion, CEO of Youth Advocacy Council Mr. Mohsin KHAN said that, the TransHelp app already served this purpose, but it requires a national recognition particularly by government, NACP and non-governmental organization.
He further elaborated the impact of TransHelp on Transgender behavior and how it helps TGPs to enhance their understanding, connect with service providers and mentoring during the great pandemic. The YAC also screened a documentary on training and testing for transgender persons in Punjab and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.
Later, Mr. Farooq Malik, Regional Coordinator YAC Pakistan gave detail training on HIV and STIs and explained its different types, general symptoms and relevant treatments. He differentiated between the common and less common STI in Pakistan. He also clarified the nexus between STIs and HIV/AIDS and shared that Youth between the age brackets of 20-24 are highly affected by HIV infection and therefore, students must be sensitize on this disease.
Likewise, Ms. Zanaya from SATHI Foundation pinpointed that TGPs are confronted with discrimination in hospitals and clinics at the hands of health workers predominantly the doctors. They are mistreated and are despised due to contraction of HIV/AIDS. She highlighted that a misperception exists in the minds of doctors and nursing staff.
Their brains are polluted with biasness, discrimination and stigma against Trans and people living with HIV and AIDS. She also suggested that the health staff should be trained on communication skills in dealing with HIV/AIDS patients and particularly Trans community.
Ms. Zanaya also suggested to establish separate ward and clinics for transgenders, as significant amount of TGPs are affected by disease especially HIV/AIDS and they cannot be treated in general hospitals with other patients.
On effective role of Media and Academia in prevention of HIV/AIDS and countering Stigmatization, Prof. Dr. Akhtar Nadham (Harvard-CECOS University) stressed upon incorporating information on HIV, AIDS, transphobia, social stigma in the syllabus. He also suggested training faculty members on Human rights, transphobia, cultural, religious and disease prevention, so that they can educate their student meaningfully.
Similarly, Prof. Dr. Sharif Hassan from Germany suggested to conduct research on behavioral aspects of HIV/AIDS in the community, and design behavioral change communication curricula both at home and academics to support victims of HIV virus and students. He also proposed the urge to initiate a national campaign for social mobilization, improved communication, and greater awareness of HIV/AIDS to people in far-flung areas and to address the bias and prejudices against people living with HIV/AIDS.