Young people from all over the world are committed to Youth against AIDS (YAA). But who is working for our organisation, how does our work look like and why do we actually do what we’re doing? To get you a glimpse behind the scenes, we are going to introduce you to the faces and stories behind YAA in the next few weeks. Today we introduce our board member Roman Malessa to you.
Why are you committed to HIV / AIDS prevention?
During my studies, I did a three-month internship at a children’s home in the north of Brazil. There I was confronted for the first time with the problems of HIV / AIDS. This experience never let me go again.
Why did you choose to be a part of Youth against AIDS?
A good friend made me aware of YAA – and I was immediately enthusiastic. Later, I met Daniel (Chairman of the Board), who told me about the perspectives and goals of the organisation. After that, I was sure that I would like to get involved here. The special thing about YAA is that we not only talk, but we act. Together we can do a great deal and really make a difference. I have felt this attitude from the beginning and it still inspires me today.
Where do you get the motivation to spend so much time in the organisation?
I think it’s unbelievable what we achieve as a youth-led organization. We make a very concrete contribution to the prevention of HIV & AIDS and put an often forgotten topic at the mind of society. In addition, we are always facing new challenges and never stop working on ourselves – true to our motto #NeverStop. The best example of this? When I started, we were only active in Germany. Meanwhile we reach young people on all continents.
What are your responsibilities at YAA?
I am responsible for communication, digital issues and fundraising. This includes directing the social media teams, the press department and the outward appearance of the organization. I put a lot of thought about how we can bring our values to people in order to drive social change. In the field of fundraising, we work primarily on alternative financing options for our educational work. Will we still be in front of a class in 2025 and educate just as we do today? I don’t think so. That’s why we’re already thinking about the enlightenment of tomorrow in the digital sector.
Why do you want to involve young people in the fight against AIDS?
We will not end AIDS by emphasizing the important role of youth again and again. We as a young generation have to take our fate into our own hands and not only talk but become active. That’s why we launched our global Youth against AIDS movement in New York on March 14th and are currently launching projects on every continent.
What were your most moving moments in your career at YAA?
Our Night of Life on World AIDS Day last year. Throughout the year, we have been involved in more than 80 events, have been part of the World AIDS Conference in Paris for the first time with around 50 volunteers, and launched our biggest ever campaign in November. It was the highlight of a year in which we worked very hard and celebrated many successes.
Did you also have a special moment on your previous trips in the course of AIDS2018?
Absolutely, in Brazil, we visited a young girl with AIDS in the hospital and talked to her about her illness and her life. She died only a few days after our visit. That moved us all deeply.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
The World AIDS Conference in Summer in Amsterdam – one of our biggest projects so far. Here we design a large part of the youth work and invite 300 young people from all over the world to join us in Amsterdam and to ensure that the voice of the youth is heard. At the conference, we will create our own youth headquarters and discuss the role of youth in the fight against AIDS with global leaders. And we will celebrate the kick-off of our global Youth against AIDS movement.
Your wish to be ended with:
I wish that all people in the world can live the way they are: free from fear, stigma and prejudice. Simply according to our values #Dowhatyouwant. Do it with love, respect and condoms.