Tichaona Mudhobhi, a 20-year-old Zimbabwean, is crossing the United States on a six-week speaking tour sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. Near CRS' headquarters in downtown Baltimore, Mudhobhi recently met with 25 other HIV-positive youths to share their experiences living with the virus.
The summit, held at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (MSoM) and co-sponsored by CRS and Children's National Medical Center in Washington, included two attendees from Africa, but the majority were from Baltimore and other U.S. cities. The goal was to provide a forum for Africans and Americans to trade ideas about how HIV can be prevented and managed among the world's young people.
Mudhobhi listened as the Americans extolled the use of computer technology, including support groups on Facebook. Though Internet access is limited or nonexistent for many Africans, Mudhobhi said he searches for online groups from an Internet café in his hometown of Bulawayo. While he seeks to link with others around the world, he continues to help lead weekly local support sessions.
Some of the U.S. youths were surprised to learn how the Africans cherished their ability to access antiretrovirals, said Dr. Ligia Peralta, director of the adolescent HIV program at MSoM. "That was a nice message for young people in the United States," she said, noting that one of the biggest challenges with HIV-positive youth in Baltimore is getting them to adhere to their treatment regimens.
"I have a vision to inspire people, to motivate young people," said Mudhobhi, an artist who is traveling with several of his original paintings. "I'm strong, I'm pursuing life."
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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