Back in January of this year, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Alliance Myanmar and PhotoVoice joined forces to work with the Myanmar Youth Stars – a group of young people, under 25, who represent people most affected by HIV in Myanmar.
The project aimed to increase visibility of key groups, challenge stigma and misconceptions that increase risks faced by them and other young people, and build the skills of the Youth Stars to enable them to be effective advocates and peer educators.
Following a very successful exhibition in Yangon, the photography for social change exhibition is now on display in the Global Village.
The Youth Stars act as representatives for their communities, and gain support and skills to build their confidence in meeting the challenges they face in a country where committing an ‘unnatural sex act’ is still a crime (no detail is given in the penal code as to what falls under this definition), and where HIV is a taboo subject too infrequently discussed and too often misunderstood.
These inspiring young people have produced photo stories that raise awareness and deepen understanding on issues around the spread of HIV in Myanmar, and are helping to create dialogue with young people whose actions can make a difference to their safety and the safety of others.
They are the vanguard of a generation that will demand the right to live and love as they please, and to have their health protected and cared for regardless of their gender or HIV status. Already there are positive stories arising from the lives of these young people – a young man living with HIV who is fully supported by his family, and who finds their support vital to his wellbeing and access to services; transgender women who have lived with partners for years and have built up strong networks of friends in their local areas. Sharing such stories will provide real-life role models for those who feel they should shun key groups to avoid facing stigma themselves.
The participatory photo project was organised through Link Up, an Alliance-led project which aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda.