Feature story

Young people’s inspirational leadership role in India’s HIV response

06 February 2024

Divyanshi is an enthusiastic 18-year-old Indian girl with an inspiring personal story of courage and resilience. She was diagnosed with HIV at a very young age. She has never given up on her dreams.

“I became aware of my status around 2013-14 but it wasn’t until I moved to a care home that I understood the challenges of living with this virus,” said Divyanshi. “As a person living with HIV, I face stigma and discrimination when a friend or someone else gets to know about my positive status. But I take it as an opportunity to educate people about HIV and break their myths. I want to show the world that I can live a normal, healthy, and happy life as a person living with HIV.”

Divyanshi joined the Positive YUVA Network (PYN)—an innovative community-based organisation striving to uplift young people living with HIV—where she found support and guidance from her peers.

As a network of young people living with HIV, Positive YUVA Network is a community-based organization committed to support young people living with HIV and LGBTQI+ people in India. The organization focuses its efforts on supporting the mental health of the young people living with HIV through its “Buddy System”. This initiative acknowledges the psychological challenges experienced by young people living with HIV and supports them with professional counsellors who provide tailored assistance. 

The organization provides skills development opportunities, recognizing that empowering young people living with HIV with practical skills enhances their socio-economic prospects. Through mentorship programs, the Positive YUVA Network aims to instil confidence and self-reliance among the youth, helping young people to redefine their narrative.

At the Positive YUVA Network, Divyanshi discovered her passion for photography and with the help of her mentor, is now interning at a startup, capturing moments of joy and hope. Divyanshi is an inspiration to many in how she shows that no obstacle can deter her from chasing her aspirations.

The Positive YUVA Network also works to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with HIV by raising awareness in schools. For instance, the organization used the most recent World AIDS Day as an opportunity to initiate open discussions and correct myths about HIV and AIDS among school going children with a goal to create a supportive and inclusive environment that fosters understanding and empathy for all people. By fostering empathy and a respect for the rights of everyone, the initiative helps to advance the health of everyone.

Global HIV statistics reveal that 1 out of every 4 new HIV infections globally in 2022 were among young people (15–24 years). Recognizing this demographic vulnerability, a focus on youth-specific interventions is imperative for an effective HIV response.

This community-driven initiative, and many others like this one, is playing a critical role in removing barriers for young people to meaningfully engage in the HIV-response in India. It is a powerful example of how community-led organisations are transforming the AIDS response at grassroots level. 

“In India's HIV response, youth-led organizations infuse hope and resilience. These groups, driven by the energy and innovation of young minds, are building a more inclusive and informed society. Rights, recognition and respect are essential for public health efforts to succeed. The impact of organisations like the Positive YUVA Network is not limited to young people living with HIV and LGBTQ+ youth, it benefits everyone,” said David Bridger, UNAIDS Country Director in India. “We all need to recognize the indomitable spirit of these organizations—pillars of strength in our collective journey. Together, let us do all we can to support the vital role of youth-led initiatives as they lead us along the path that ends AIDS,” he added.


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