12 Oct 2018

Meet Kossy Umeh – Our 2018 Y+ READY Fellow!

GNP+ is pleased to interview and introduce you to Kossy Umeh, our 2018 Y+ READY Fellow. Kossy is a member of the Y+ READY Fellowship leadership initiative, which is a virtual platform for young emerging HIV positive leaders. READY (Resilient & Empowered Adolescents & Young People) is an emerging movement for adolescents and young people. As our new Y+ READY Fellow, Kossy will spend the next few months collaborating with GNP+ and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance sharing and learning from peers and key stakeholders in the HIV movement around the world. Follow his journey online at the Y+ Network on Facebook.  For more information about READY visit www.aidsalliance.org/ready

Q: Tell us a little about yourself Kossy?

My name is Kosisochukwu Umeh (Kossy), I am from the Anambra state in southeastern, Nigeria and I am living positively. I was born in 1996 as the last of 5 children and I am an orphan. I’ve graduated with a degree in engineering, and I have been working as an advocate for adolescents and young people living with HIV, and as a peer educator and social entrepreneur.

Q: Tell us about some of your experiences as a young person living with HIV?

My experience as a young person living with HIV began the day I found out about my status. I was 10 years old and knew nothing about HIV and I didn’t understand why my extended family stigmatized and discriminated against me.

I was abandoned and left to die before my eldest sister (who was 20 at the time) took me in and we took care of each other. I grew up being so secretive and isolated, struggling with adhering to my treatment. I didn’t realize how bad things were until I joined an adolescent support group called the Teenage Zone. Through that group, I enrolled in an adolescent summer camp where I received my first peer educator training that gave me a head start towards becoming an adolescent HIV advocate.

Q: Tell us about the advocacy work you do

My passion for advocacy is based on promoting the sexual and reproductive health and rights, social and physical wellbeing and emotional and mental health of adolescent and young people living with HIV, especially those who have been victims of stigma, discrimination and social injustice.

Q: Who in this movement are you most inspired by?

I am most inspired by Yana Panfilova (Founder of Teenergizer, and 2017 Y+ Fellow). She has achieved and done great things as a girl, woman, and young person living with a HIV. Most importantly, she is now a role model that most young people want to follow.

Q:  What do you want to get out of the Y+ Fellowship?

I want to learn from dedicated, passionate and experienced advocates in the HIV field to acquire and develop my skills in analyzing evidence-based data, project management and financing, to further the work of HIV programming and advocacy to a whole new level.

Q: What advice do you have to other young HIV+ people who are trying to fight against stigma and discrimination?

My advice to other young HIV+ people is to remember that stigma and discrimination are antagonists in their storyline, but they are the protagonist, and in every story, the protagonists always wins the war.

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