UNAIDS Executive Director with Nigerian Youth Leaders
at the launch. Picture; YouthHub Africa
The tittle is fitting because it speaks volumes on what is the current status and what is needed to move ahead in the ongoing fight against the AIDS pandemic. According to a UNAIDS report, HIV incidence in decreasing in many parts of the world, especially Africa. In 22 Sub Saharan African countries, incidence has dropped by 25%. This change, now popularly termed the "Youth Revolution" is attributed to attitude changes among young people. They are choosing to protect themselves by making better health choices. And the only way there can significant action against the AIDS pandemic is if we can see an expansion of this revolution. To this effect, collaborating with these new generation leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS is critical.
"Although significant progress has been made during the past 30 years, there are still more than 3000 young people (aged 15–24) newly infected with HIV each day. According to UNAIDS estimates, young people accounted for 42% of all new HIV infections among adults (aged 15–49) in 2010."
This was a short passage from the strategy document itself. To further demonstrate the need to partner with young people as the said new generation leaders, for Africa and indeed the rest of the world, we need to look a little close at this data. The UN definition for "adolescents" and "youth", though still a challenge in the global context places them at 10 to 19 and 15 to 24 respectively. The "Youth" age group in Africa is between 15 to 35 years. If in that logic we re-examined how much young people accounted for new HIV infections among the 15 to 49 years age bracket on the African continent, the percentage would be significant. The revolution seen in those 22 countries and in others where it has flattened needs to strengthened by ensuring the implementation of these recommendations.
What are these recommendations contained in the document?
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- It recommends the establishment of an online youth platform that will serve to "maximize the potential for young people’s participation and leadership." This would create a hub for UNAIDS youth-related activities globally,
- It makes recommendations based on 6 key outcome areas (Skills for effective leadership; Full youth participation; Access to information; Strategic networks; Increased outreach; and Smarter funding),
- It expands the recommendations made with suggestions for concrete actions the UNAIDS secretariat can take.
The document is finalized with a section on accountability where the basic monitoring and evaluation framework is laid out.
You will, however, have a sense that there is something forgotten when finished going through the document. On page six, 3 thematic priorities identified by young people during the global consultation are presented. As it is the beginning of the document, one may have the impression that the strategy recommendations are thus framed on these themes. But as concerning the content, that is not the case. Our interpretation of this is that this was not an omission, but rather a presentation of the cross-cutting issues identified where youth can demonstrate action and leadership.
How will it be used?
The CrowdOutAIDS strategy recommendations are made to the UNAIDS secretariat in their efforts to develop a "New Generation Leadership Strategy" in ongoing efforts to eradicate HIV and AIDS. UNAIDS will also conduct an internal organizational assessment on HIV and young people to further inform this process. The recommendations are also expected to contribute to "achieving the bold targets set by world leaders in the United Nations General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS adopted in June 2011."
It may be difficult to know what we can do with this document, with these recommendations in moving forward after this launch. Is it going to be one of those documents in shelves that lacks intent to use it? We are of the opinion that this will not and should not be the case. What should be understood is that this is a UNAIDS initiative, though conducted independent of their influence, to inform broader policy on working with young people. So we can assume round one is complete. Round two will be to ensure that these recommendations are reflected in efforts to meet the targets set in the 2011 HIV/AIDS Declaration for 2015.
We would also love to hear what your impression of the document is. Please leave a commend below.