Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS
Alischa Ross is a 28-year-old young woman from Australia who dedicates herself to enriching the lives of young people; her peers, and empowering them to realize their place in the global response to HIV and AIDS. The majority of Alischa’s skills and knowledge have risen from her deep journey of self discovery and commitment to live as a passionate and connected part of her community. It is difficult to distinguish the path that separates her professional background from her personal story.
Nineteen years ago AIDS became part of Alischa’s life when her mother and baby sister were diagnosed with HIV. Now she is the founder of Australia’s first youth focused HIV/AIDS education, prevention & advocacy organization; YEAH (Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS). Her message is simple; connect and empower young people to understand themselves, their peers and the world they live in.
“Working in the field of HIV/AIDS has given me a great insight into the challenges of promoting community issues that attract discrimination and stigma and working with those people most marginalized in the community. Throughout 2005 – 2007 I participated in a number of profession development courses focused on leadership, governance and strategic development and in 2006 I was nominated as a finalist for Young Australian of the Year in recognition of my work.
In 2007 while continuing my commitments as CEO of YEAH I began studying my Masters of Public Health. My goal is to ensure that my efforts in establishing a community based organization are sustainable in a long term capacity. I see my role as empowering and supporting other young people to recognize and develop their own leadership skills and help them lead and shape YEAH’s work long into the future.”
YEAH began its work in 2005 as the first youth inspired initiative dedicated to engaging & empowering young Australians to understand and respond to the local and global issues of HIV/AIDS. This includes providing the skills & support for young people to know how to make positive choices about protecting their sexual health and the sexual health and well-being of others. YEAH’s central mission is facilitating the exchange of information with all young Australians about their sexual health and development, life skills and connectedness in being part of the global response to HIV/AIDS.
YEAH has operated organically within a mission centric social enterprise framework; generating its own sustainable support through workshops and the distribution of resources to educational networks that delivers its mission. Our educational out reach workshops create forums for youth lead dialogue that place young people at the center of creating a language with their peers that holds meaning to them and helps them understand the issues of HIV and AIDS.
YEAH success has centered on connecting young people to realization that living in a globalized world actually means that someone else’s problem is my problem, that we are all connected to each other. What is good for one will affect the other. Therefore we have no place to sit and watch our neighbours suffer just as we must also recognize that living in Australia does not make us immune to issues of HIV and AIDS in our local communities.