by Ebony Johnson – USA & North America Delegate
UNAIDS Thematic Days provide an opportunity for governments, United Nations Programs and members of Civil Society to convene a rich and interactive day of dialogue on a relevant topic ranging from food and nutrition to HIV and the Law. The Thematic Session for the December 2013 UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) will focus on “HIV, Adolescents and Youth.” The thematic day will provide an opportunity to examine the intersections of HIV and young persons between 10-24 years of age. Accordingly, it is expected that young persons will be key speakers throughout the thematic day, ensuring both real-life experiences and youth-led solutions are well captured and highlighted.
The “HIV, Adolescents and Youth” Thematic Day will be conducted in plenary and focus on five key areas throughout the day. One area will be scaled-up, evidence informed, youth-friendly programmes for adolescents and youth, especially young key populations. Here it will be essential to ensure that youth programmes are included in national strategic plans, and appropriately costed and earmarked in national budgets. This program must be reflective of youth consultation and inclusive approaches.
The second area to be included will be the expansion of efforts to integrate HIV programmes for young people, young key populations and young people living with HIV into a broader framework of sexual and reproductive health, ensure they are youth-friendly, and explore opportunities for linkages between the education, gender, social and child protection sectors and HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. This section should affirm the need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education to offer young people real opportunities to make healthy and informed decisions about sex, risk and prevention of HIV, STI’s, pregnancy and their overall reproductive health.
The third area to be addressed is the creation of enabling social and legal environments for adolescent and youth HIV programmes. This area will include discussion on programmes for young key populations, and revised age- and sex-related restrictions that prevent adolescents and young women and men from accessing effective HIV prevention, treatment and care, as well as sexual and reproductive healthservices. It will be imperative to have youth participants speak openly about both barriers and facilitators of access to health services that may not be immediately apparent, including punitive laws, harmful cultural norms and negative provider attitudes.
The forth area being covered will be working with young people as partners and supporting them as leaders in the HIV response. This segment will explore means of greater inclusion of young people in HIV-related national, regional and global decision-making and policy processes. The session will examine the practicalities of supporting meaningful participation of young persons throughout the HIV programme cycle, including design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Here it will be key for young people to share what support means for them as well as how they want and need to be tangibly included in decision-making processes.
The fifth and final area targeted to be covered is the collection, compilation and dissemination of data on all relevant Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting (GARPR) indicators that are relevant to young persons. This section will include examination of data on HIV treatment, disaggregated by age and sex, and tracking resources on AIDS spending categories that are relevant to young people for evidence-informed advocacy, policy-making and programming. This session can help ensure that the needs and gaps of young people are better reflected in reporting, prioritized in planning and validated by a more detailed data set.
Overall, the participation, experiences, best practices and solutions that are articulated from the youth participants will be the key component across all of the five areas. We hope that this will open up new parameters for ongoing advocacy and action on youth both with UNAIDS Board and within the respective planning mechanisms for government and United Nations entities alike that will be inclusive of and supported by youth stakeholders.