Tung Doan is the Executive Director of the Lighthouse Social Enterprise in Vietnam, Project Manager for Y+ Global and an IAS Person-Centred Care Advocate, recognized for his work on the Lighthouse Community Clinic (LCC), a model of person-centred, peer-led and one-stop care for young people living with and affected by HIV. This is his story …
"Young people have a lot of strength and potential. They have creativity, ideas, energy and dedication to support their communities. They understand the needs, contexts and languages of the communities they’re serving. If they receive sufficient investment, they can create amazing programmes, translating scientific information into action."
I was 21 when I joined Lighthouse in 2015. I felt that the voices of us young people were often not heard in discussions and our objectives were seen as lower priority than those of the adults.
Inspired by the founders of Lighthouse, who were from young key populations, using our voice and strength we were able to develop a diverse programme for young people. It was designed to address HIV and other health issues for young people based on our six priority areas: we educate, deliver quality and friendly services, advocate for community rights, build capacity and empower communities, conduct community-led research, mobilize and unite the community.
We need to listen
To reduce HIV acquisitions, we need to engage and listen to the voices of young people, especially young key populations, who are most vulnerable. We need to understand the factors that affect their approach to treatment, as well as the social behaviours that affect their lives, including stigma, discrimination and knowledge of HIV. It is important to meaningfully engage young people when designing, implementing and monitoring programmes.
A lot of young people don’t believe that they can take on a leadership role. We offer young people a platform and equip them with tools to apply to their work and strengthen their voices. This means inviting young people to lead consultations, develop methodologies for facilitation and lead discussions about their experiences. We then advocate for seats at the table for young people at high-level meetings with organizations like the Global Fund or PEPFAR.
Young people have a lot of strength and potential. They have creativity, ideas, energy and dedication to support their communities. They understand the needs, contexts and languages of the communities they’re serving. If they receive sufficient investment, they can create amazing programmes, translating scientific information into action.
I encourage young people to take risks; if you take risks, you must also take the failures. Failing sometimes is a great way to learn and turn these learnings into success. I encourage young people to be in solidarity with each other, especially young key population communities; hold hands, stay together and identify common goals and vision. When we are together, we are stronger.
We have reached more than 100,000 people in key populations since we were established, who have engaged with our education programmes via targeted campaigns and social media outreach. We have 15 community-led studies and 30 abstracts published in scientific journals, and presented in conferences and workshops, bringing the perspective of the community into the academic sphere and helping people recognize the need to engage with and learn from affected communities. This year, we will host the first-ever community science forum in Vietnam, in partnership with the United States CDC, right after IAS 2023, the 12th IAS Conference on HIV Science, which will be held in Brisbane, Australia in July.