Aboriginal youth gathered at a three-day Youth Train-the-Trainers conference in Prince George, British Columbia, to learn more about HIV/AIDS and how they can help end the virus that is spreading among their communities, reports the Prince George Citizen.

First Nations chiefs, councils and health directors selected the participants based on their leadership qualities; youth ranged in ages from 15 to 22.

Emma Palmantier, chair of the Northern B.C. Aboriginal HIV/AIDS task force, stressed that the youth are responsible for taking the knowledge they gained during the conference back to their own communities since many come from remote populations that lack information on the virus. Palmantier is also concerned about youth who migrate to urban areas such as Prince George and Vancouver.

“They come from low-income families, and their only way to survive in the city is the sex trade or drug-trafficking,” she said. “The governments need to come up with funds to train these youth in trades and jobs so they can live normal lives. There’s a big door of opportunity for training.”

Palmantier hopes that sustainable funding will be negotiated with the government to support more community-based training programs.