The Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) is a network of young leaders (ages 15 - 30) and adult allies working in HIV/AIDS worldwide. It prioritizes networking and sharing of best practices, technical assistance and capacity building, and political advocacy. GYCA focuses specifically on creating a platform for continued empowerment, networking opportunities and collaboration among youth activists and youth organizations in fighting the epidemic.
GYCA is currently made up of over 7000 youth leaders and adult allies in over 170 countries representing local, regional, and global HIV/AIDS initiatives. It is coordinated by a North Secretariat in Brooklyn, New York and a South Secretariat in Accra, Ghana, that act as catalysts for a decentralized network, operating through 12 Regional Focal Points and a growing number of National Focal Points worldwide.
Youth participants at the Barcelona and Bangkok International AIDS Conferences in 2002 and 2004 recognized the need for a global network which would allow them to share information and resources, strategize on collaborative projects and campaigns, and to increase coverage of HIV/AIDS interventions worldwide.
Young people felt they are not achieving their potential in contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Because youth comprise near 40% of all new infections, they feel a need to actively participate within international dialogue on HIV/AIDS issues and acquire much-needed skills and resources for self-empowerment. Youth leaders feel marginalized and isolated from one another, and have difficulty accessing information and sharing knowledge. At Bangkok, young people had informal meetings to address these specific needs and obtained approval and support for the development of GYCA from Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
After the conference, youth attendees of Bangkok invited adult allies and other youth working on HIV/AIDS to participate in a month-long e-consultation to seek feedback on the needs, goals, and structure of the proposed Coalition. GYCA was established with an initial voluntary task force in the fall of 2004 with approximately 200 young leaders and has since then grown exponentially.
Although many networks and youth-led organizations already exist, discussions at Bangkok revealed that youth leaders lack information about already established resources and programmes. Many programmes that focus on HIV/AIDS and youth are managed by adults, with youth as only beneficiaries of knowledge, skills, and services not as active agents with incredible potential in the fight against the global pandemic. The need for GYCA arose from youth and for youth and is supported by established global and regional youth organizations.
GYCA is a tool for youth involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and engages and empowers young people by adapting tools that have proven successful for previous initiatives, and complements them with a youth-created and youth-led plan of action. Such practices include:
GYCA does not seek to duplicate existing efforts including programmes, training resources, or advocacy campaigns. Rather, GYCA seeks to enhance the efficacy of these efforts by publicizing successes, connecting youth skills to initiatives in need of support and development, and by compiling resources to solidify the common cause.