Change of address

The Foundation’s London office has moved. Our new address is: Elton John AIDS Foundation, 88 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HU

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I had never met anyone like me before. The experience of being with other young people living with HIV was very important, it was the first time I had the chance to talk about myself, say everything about me, without fear of discrimination, stigma or any kind of abuse. – Duarte*

Duarte, a young person living with HIV who has been supported through partners of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, sits on a beach in Mozambique looking out at the water.

HIV rates are rising faster in young people than any other group and in sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS is the leading cause of death among 10–19-year-olds. Without urgent action, an estimated 3.5 million new young people will be diagnosed with HIV by 2030.

At the Elton John AIDS Foundation we are pioneering new ways of reaching young people, bringing them non-judgemental services and honest, accurate health information right into their hands wherever they are.

Over the last three years, thanks to funding from the UK public and UK government, we have been supporting the youth-focused Ready for an AIDS Free Future program in Maputo city and Matola in Mozambique. This UK Aid Match project has helped young people, at the highest risk of HIV, access a range of sexual and reproductive health services including HIV prevention, testing, treatment and compassionate care.

Together with our local partners and Frontline AIDS we helped:

  • 46,743 people get counselled and tested for HIV, and provided access to other sexual and reproductive health services such as STI screening and contraceptives
  • Diagnose 1,209 young people with HIV, with 92% of those identified as HIV positive starting antiretroviral treatment

Duarte, a young person living with HIV who has been supported through partners of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, sits speaking to a friendly peer counsellor.

A peer-to-peer approach played a vital role in success of this program. Having peers who understood the realities of the local community and who shared similar experiences, encouraged young people to talk openly without fear of judgement and prejudice and created a welcoming environment in healthcare facilities.

Young people, who are affected by HIV, were offered the chance to be trained as peer counsellors. Their primary goal was to support their peers to manage their HIV status and stay on treatment. They also played a crucial role in demand creation for HIV and other sexual health services amongst marginalised adolescents who were at high risk of HIV infection.

By sharing their own personal stories, the peer counsellors became a source of hope for other young people, who regularly face high levels of stigma and discrimination in a country which has one of the highest HIV rates in the world.

What surprised me the most about being a peer counsellor is that there is value in my experiences and I can be myself. I do not have to pretend to be someone I am not, for me to help my peers – Kevin*

Maria*, one of the young people supported by the project, would meet with the peer counsellors every month to talk about her treatment and discuss any worries she had. Maria’s mum has been supportive since she disclosed her HIV status, but these sessions gave Maria the opportunity to talk with people her own age who were also HIV positive without fear of judgement.

I enjoy being able to communicate with the peer educators and to have people like me there for support. It is not like asking for support from an adult. With them, I feel like I can talk openly. – Maria

Maria, a young girl living with HIV who has been supported through partners of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, sits with her mum outside of her home speaking to peer educator from the community.

The Ready for an AIDS Free Future project has made a significant difference to the mental health and wellbeing of the young people it supported, helping them overcome their fears and to accept their diagnosis. The peer counsellors showed them it was possible to live a healthy, happy life with HIV, giving them hope that they could fulfil their future dreams.

Being a peer counsellor has changed my life, and the energy and motivation that I have to help other young people is so strong. I hope for a future with no HIV stigma, where we accept each other in all our diversity. – Kevin

Young people are our future: they deserve our compassion and care.

*Names have been changed