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6 small ways you can fight HIV (and change the world)

20th April 2016
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Q: What's the link between Wu Tang Clan, volunteer programmes in Zimbabwe, and young people across the UK? 

A: They’re all changing the world...  

Or at least, that’s the plan.

Restless Development believes there are many routes to changing the world for the better, and they do this by taking direct action overseas and at home. They tackle this most mammoth of tasks by:

a), working on the ground through International Citizen Service (ICS) to implement sexual health programmes, and

b), campaigns in the UK that aim to change policies that negatively affect the world’s developing countries.

ICS gets work done where it’s most needed through volunteering programmes in affected countries. For example, in March, Restless Development Zimbabwe hosted an awareness campaign in Ushe, a suburb of Harare, that was attended by more than 500 people. Partnering with local NGOs, the volunteers provided HIV testing for 250 people.

It’s change on a global scale, and it can have benefits for volunteers’ own self-awareness too.

Just ask Usaama, a UK volunteer in South Africa and Team Leader in Uganda.

“Before I volunteered overseas, I used to think issues like HIV and AIDS, youth unemployment and political engagement were all too big for one person to solve, especially by someone like me,” he says.

“But through seeing first-hand the impact our work had on the local community, I realised we can collectively have an impact that creates a ripple effect.”

Back in the UK, ICS volunteers use the skills they’ve learnt overseas and the passions they’ve ignited to insight change on an equally as large scale.

One current campaign supported by Restless Development is the Youth Stop AIDS Missing Medicines campaign, which is taking on the pharmaceutical giants at the heart of what they believe to be a broken system.

The crux of the campaign is to expose the over-inflation of drug prices, which means companies fail to see a benefit and don’t invest in them – causing unspeakable harm to countries, communities and families affected by the condition.

Taking on the pharma industry and campaigning for a world without AIDS might seem like a big task, especially for a bunch of young people – but the campaigners’ demands are clear: the introduction of incentives that will lead to the prioritisation of health research according to need rather than profit. A fund for research into development of medicines. Nations to pay for the fund by committing 0.01% of their GDP towards it.

Their efforts are paying off: currently Missing Medicines have lobbied 86% of their targeted MPs, and received 44% of the signatures they’re seeking.

After all, as AIDs disproportionately affects young people, it stands to reason that young people are needed to fight it.

If changing the world is something that you might be interested in (hint: it should be), here are six ways you can get involved.

1. Take direct action

In March, the Missing Medicines team took to the streets of London wearing masks of possibly the year’s most hated man, self-titled “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli. The idea was to highlight the way Shkreki – who at the end of last year hiked the price of HIV drugs from $13.50 to $750 a pill – had profited from a system that was intrinsically broken.

The image-led story was covered on Mashable, where it was shared more than 500 times – a success for anyone trying to spread the word about their campaign.

Youth Stop AIDs says: “From loud marches to pool parties, colourful cabarets to spontaneous flash mobs, we know how to be heard!”

Sounds fun. Maybe you should join them?

2. Lobby your MPs

Letting your MP know what issues are important to you is the first step to the government making positive changes. Youth Stop Aids lobbies MPs by writing them letters, inviting them to events and building “relationships with them to influence their perspectives and actions.”

You can find out who your local MP is and how to contact them here.

3. Spread the word

It’s really not that hard to shout about things you care about. Youth Stop AIDs says: “We reach out to the public to increase awareness of the problems around HIV and AIDS and change negative attitudes towards people affected by HIV. We get their support for our public campaigns, gathering signatures for action cards, petitions and scrolls, taking photographs and even getting their hand prints to show the large numbers of people mobilising behind our demands. We also speak out online on social media and traditional media too.”

We know how much time you spend on social media, so why not utilise it for the greater good?

4. Organise locally

Fancy organising afundraising ceilidh in Edinburgh, a ball in Exeter (where the dress code is “underwear”), a stall at Brighton Pride or a festival in Nottingham?

Of course you do. Party time!

5. Attend the speaker tour

Ok, you might not be able to catch Youth Stop AIDS’ Speaker Tour this year, because it’s already happened. But with a line-up of inspiring young people whose lives have been affected by HIV (and other conditions) and a whirlwind 18 university cities across three weeks of February, it’s definitely one to factor into your plans for 2017. Dates TBC.

6. Volunteer with ICS

Maybe in Zimbabwe, or maybe elsewhere. Find out more here.

7. Join the campaign

A no-brainer. Click here.

See, it is possible for young people to change the world – whether that’s on the other side of the planet or on their own doorsteps.

Oh, and Wu Tang Clan? Their album artist has been suing the aforementioned pharma bro, Martin Shkreli, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with pharmaceuticals. Every little helps.

Watch the “A Year of Protest: Stop AIDS Campaign” video below: 

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