Advocates' Blog
Advocates' Blog
The Supreme Court's Moment of Truth
Friday, 13 November 2015 14:23

Last week, the Supreme Court announced it will hear the most important abortion case in 2 decades: it will review the Texas law which would close nearly all of its clinics which offer abortion care services. For years politicians have been sneaking around the Constitution, chipping away our rights with the goal to leave millions with little or no real access, placing an “undue burden” on accessing abortion care.  

One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime.  We need to listen to their stories and create a culture of empathy and support for access to basic health care. We need to come out in support of each other and in support of access to legal and safe abortion care in our communities.

In 2014, Advocates for Youth’s 1 in 3 Campaign hosted the first ever online abortion speakout.  Over 100 people participated, sharing their stories and experiences with seeking abortion care. Faith leaders, health care providers, policy makers, student activists, and people from all walks of life spoke out.  Now, as the Supreme Court prepares to make its decision, the voices of the people are needed more than ever.  

It’s time to Speakout once again. Join us Jan. 19, 2016 for our live “amicus brief” where “we the people” will share our experiences with abortion and tell the Supreme Court why protecting access to abortion is so important.  Fill out this form by December 2 to participate in the 2016 Speakout live by Skype or in person.

Let the Supreme Court know we’re watching as they consider this historic decision. And we need them to decide in favor of dignity, autonomy, and safety.

Watch this space
Friday, 13 November 2015 07:55

Our annual report is coming soon!  Stop back by for this look back at young people's activism in 2016.

Meanwhile, follow Advocates on twitter, facebook, tumblr, and Instagram for regular updates!

NYHAAD Ambassador Applications Now Open!
Thursday, 08 October 2015 07:53

The 2016 National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) Ambassador application is now open! Every year we mark April 10, as a day to educate and empower the public about the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people as well as highlight the amazing work young people are doing across the country to fight the HIV & AIDS epidemic. Last year, NYHAAD Youth Ambassadors were fundamental in making sure young people were prioritized within the National HIV/ AIDS Strategy update.  We need you to make sure the implementation of the strategy is successful! 

Now is your chance to join a dynamic group of young leaders and activists who come together to promote treatment, care, and youth empowerment.

NYHAAD Ambassadors hold events on their campuses and in communities, promote NYHAAD through social media, art, blogs and videos and will collaborate with other Ambassadors and Advocates staff on materials and resources to make NYHAAD known throughout the country!

PS - Adults: please share this with two fantastic young people in your community!


Thanks for an Amazing Urban Retreat Print
Monday, 05 October 2015 00:00



Working with Advocates has absolutely changed my life. They've helped me do the work that I love, they've sent me to conferences, and have hooked me up with incredible people who are constantly working to lift me and each other up.

Patty, Young Women of Color Leadership Council


Because of supporters like you, the 16th Annual Urban Retreat: Youth Activist Institute was a resounding success! We were able to bring 120 young people from 30 states and five countries to the retreat this year. Two groups, the Young Women of Leadership Council and Youth Resource (our LGBTQ activists) even came a day early to work on their advocacy campaigns! Youth speakers included Omarr--the son of conservative Black pastors--who after confronting his own “isms” at last year’s Urban Retreat began a year-long advocacy campaign and successfully won improvements to the sex education policy in his rural Mississippi school district; to Patty who fought back when she was censored by Facebook for sharing sexual health content on her group’s page; to Dalia who at just 16 years old eloquently shared how each and every day she navigates the intersection of her identifies as young, queer and Black.


During the five day retreat, youth attended workshops and plenary sessions to build their skills as   activists and leaders, hone their stories of self, create community, and ultimately develop action plans to help them advocate for youth sexual health and rights in the year to come.

Developing your story, that’s really what this whole thing’s about [working with Advocates], because our stories are so important....there’s power in every story, and every story has the power to change laws.         
-Justin, Mississippi CAMI

On Monday, the young people donned their best outfits and headed out for Capitol Hill. Staff coordinated 93 meetings and prepared activists to use their own stories and experiences to educate elected officials about the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA) and the International Human Rights Defense Act (IHRDA).

 We lobby to show politicians and decision makers they cannot use our bodies as bargaining chips.      
-Tweet Gran Varones #urbanretreat15

Even before coming to the Urban Retreat, young people prepared for these meetings by collecting signatures in support of REHYA to deliver during lobby day.

The more signatures I collected, I heard tons of stories about horrible experiences in sex ed classes which pushed me to keep collecting. I put the petition on the counter at the coffee shop where I work and while I made smoothies I told people about the cause, I also went door to door in the dorm buildings for hours asking people for their support. Supporting REHYA is, I feel, a pinnacle to our experiences in Advocates for Youth. This petition is the first step to showing legislators that we will not be silent about this issue, we will continue having the conversation until we no longer need to have it!

 -Madison Chickos, Ohio CAMI


And decision makers were listening. As a direct result of this year’s lobby day:

  • ·Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Congressman David Price (D-NC) signed on as co-sponsors of REHYA bringing the bill to 48 co-sponsors in the House.
  • ·After meeting with youth activists, Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) tweeted at Advocates: “Abstinence-only sex ed doesn't work. I support HR1706 to help teens make responsible choices about their sexual health.”
  • ·Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) sent the following tweet: “Thanks for the useful mtg & happy to cosponsor HR 1706, Real Education for Healthy Youth Act!”

For more on the activists’ encounters on the Hill (and in their classrooms), a reporter from Fusion tagged along and captured their experiences.  It’s a great read!

Youth activists also attended a screening of God Loves Uganda and held discussions with global south youth from Jamaica, Kenya, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. Advocates currently maintains a network of nearly 3,000 youth-serving organizations and activists in the global south, provides technical assistance in 60 countries and works intensively in 10 countries providing onsite training and seed funding given opportunities for progress in their community and/or country on a range of sexual and reproductive health issues including HIV and AIDS. Staff secured meetings for global south attendees with Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alan Lowenthal. These offices introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act in the Senate and House, respectively.  Activists also met the senior LGBT coordinator at USAID and Randy Berry, the State Department’s first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI persons.


At the closing dinner Gabriel Maldonado (pictured above at the right), an HIV+ young African American man, Founder and Executive Director of TruEvolution, and one of only two young people on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, lifted and challenged attendees:

Oppression does not get better, homophobia does not get better. What gets better is you. You get stronger, wiser… more cunning. Tap into your truth and your story to continue to fuel your work.

Moving forward

 The Urban Retreat has given me an opportunity to interact with like-minded and inspirational youth from all over the world. I loved every moment.  


– Imani, International Youth Leadership Council


I went to my first Urban Retreat at 16.  It was there I found the courage to come out to my mom.  It was there I learned to lift up my voice.  I would not be the activist I am today-- I would not be the person I am today—but for my experiences at Urban Retreat.

                                                                                      -Adrian, Youth Resource Activist


This year, as in years past, these amazing youth activists left the Urban Retreat with a sense of community, commitment and purpose. Each will work with their group and a staff person to make meaningful change on their campuses and in their communities. They will impact the lives of those around them and if we have done our jobs right--their own lives will be forever enriched by the experience.


Below are select 2015-2016 youth activists’ action plans by group.

1 in 3 Campaign student activists, on 20 high impact campuses across the country will work towards destigmatizing abortion in their communities by creating spaces where students can share their experiences such as a hosting an abortion speak-out, creating a zine for people to share their experiences, or creating an anonymous tumblr account.  Students on each campus will host at least five events dedicated to challenging abortion stigma, including hosting the 1 in 3 play, Out of Silence, in their community.  Each of these students has committed to building a network of 500 students on their campus committed to abortion access.

Campus Organizers on nine different campuses across the country will build robust advocacy campaigns aimed at creating, reforming, and shifting school policies to support sexual health and rights as they pertain to comprehensive sex ed, contraceptive accessibility, LGBTQ rights, and STI/HIV prevention and education; thereby, creating lasting and institutional change for youth in their community.

Youth Resource activists will provide technical assistance to community based organizations nationwide seeking to improve the way they serve LGBTQ young people as well as addressing the intersectionality of issues such housing, education and employment for LGBTQ and HIV+ young people.  They will also represent the needs and rights of LGBTQ young people around HIV prevention, testing and treatment at national convenings and educate peers in their communities through targeted campaigns to improve campus and community policies and outreach around LGBTQ issues including HIV and AIDS.

The Young Women of Color Leadership Council advocates for the inclusion of young women of color in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of youth sexual and reproductive health programs so other young women of color may become empowered to advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights in their respective communities. This year, council members will develop media pieces on the impact of HIV and young women of color, host events on sexual and reproductive health and in recognition of three National HIV/ AIDS Awareness Days, advocate for a National Youth HIV & Awareness Day proclamation in their city, institutionalize an advisory council comprised of young women of color in their community, and launch the Shades of Rosie Campaign which celebrates the resilience and accomplishments of women of color through story sharing.

The Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative (CAMI) in five states (Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Ohio) will mobilize at least 3,000 young people in support of progressive issues, host in-state policy maker education efforts and take action to improve sex education at the state and local school district level. CAMI groups may also work on local legislation to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status and in support of abortion access for young people.

The International Youth Leadership Council will work with the producers of the film DIFRET to produce a viewing toolkit for college campuses as the film launches in theaters. (DIFRET, an award winning film from executive producer Angelina Jolie, is based on the inspirational true story of a young Ethiopian girl and a tenacious lawyer embroiled in a life-or-death clash between the cultural tradition of child marriage and their country’s advancement of equal rights.) Additionally, the International Youth Leadership Council will mobilize young people and educate policy makers about the new 2030 sustainable development goals and their potential impact on adolescent girls.



The 2015 Urban Retreat
Tuesday, 08 September 2015 07:00

The 2015 Urban Retreat is approaching and we are so excited! Each year, Advocates for Youth’s amazing youth activists gather in Washington, D.C. for an intense weekend of training and learning from one another. The training is followed by a day on Capitol Hill, where youth activists visit their elected officials in Congress and urge them to support policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

Press Release: New National HIV/AIDS Strategy Prioritizes Sex Education and Reducing Health Disparities
Thursday, 30 July 2015 14:45

Advocates for Youth applauds the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy on the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), released today. Advocates is thrilled to have played a small role in helping to prioritize youth, especially young gay and bisexual men in this new strategy, including a call for age-appropriate education for all Americans before they begin engaging in HIV risk-taking behaviors.

The updated strategy moves the country forward with a renewed commitment to addressing the HIV and AIDS epidemic by 2020 by implementing a coordinated plan that includes a vision for the U.S. to “become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination."

With feedback from youth activists around the country, Advocates provided input to the updated plan to prioritize young people, particularly young men who have sex with men (YMSM) and YMSM of color, and to push the importance of comprehensive sex education as a tool for HIV education and prevention.

This new plan not only calls for a reduction in new cases but also a laser focus on reducing disparity. Young people, especially YMSM, are at a higher risk of HIV due to factors including lack of information, and access to health care. Among young people living with HIV, fewer than half have been diagnosed.

“Young people have advocated for 30 years for their needs to be prioritized in the HIV and AIDS response. With the release of the new NHAS we know that their voices have been heard. We are excited by the renewed commitment from this Administration to ensure new HIV infections will be rare, ensure that everyone has access to the care they need regardless of circumstances, and to end HIV discrimination and stigma,” said Advocates for Youth President Debra Hauser.

We are fed up.
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:12

Every day, Planned Parenthood affiliates and independent abortion providers around the nation give compassionate care to women who need abortions. I am fed up with the ongoing attacks on these brave and committed providers. The need for abortion care has been a common experience across the generations and health care facilities such as Planned Parenthood have been there to ensure safe access. Yet those who provide abortion care are too often intimidated, badgered, stalked, and entrapped.AFY_StandWithPP2.jpg

I stand with Planned Parenthood and I ask you to do so as well.

Press Release: Give Teens What They Need to Make Healthy Decisions
Wednesday, 22 July 2015 10:21

Providing teens with information about and access to contraception before they need it is crucial to their health, we learn from the CDC’s new report Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing of Teenagers Aged 15–19 in the United States.

Sexual development is a normal and healthy part of growing up, and teens become more sexually active as they age. Forty-four percent of female and 47 percent of male teens had ever had sex, and by age 19 nearly 70 percent of teens have ever had sex. These numbers have been steady since 2002. They represent millions of teens who need education and skills to protect them from unwanted pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

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