Feature story

UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador strikes a chord for youth engagement in the AIDS response

13 August 2009

UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Salman Ahmad performing at the IX International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), held in Bali, Indonesia from 9-13 August. Credit: UNAIDS/Donang Wahyu

Participants in a discussion on young people’s role in AIDS response at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) reached a clear and unanimous agreement: young people are essential to halting the spread of HIV.

“Young people need to be on board to turn the tide, as it is their decision-making over their bodies and their sexuality that will determine their future status,” said UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Salman Ahmad, a well-known rock star in South Asia, opening the first dialogue with young people at ICAAP’s Community Dialogue Space.

Co-chairing the event was James Chau, China Central Television (CCTV) talk show anchor from Beijing, who is also China’s UNAIDS National Goodwill Ambassador. “It is important that young people are empowered to participate and are given a seat in relevant forums and platforms to have their voice heard and be listened to.”

Under the theme “youth perspective on leaders' commitment about youth issues and involvement in the response”, the dialogue aimed at providing an opportunity for young people to discuss their roles in the AIDS response in Asia and the Pacific region.

Committed to advocating the involvement of youth in the AIDS response, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Salman Ahmad emphasized that this kind of dialogue allows young people to prove their commitment and help shape policies and views that incorporate and represent young people. “This, in turn, can be aided by networks and networking,” said Salman. “Connecting young people, sharing knowledge and experience, building strong and sustained relationships will assist individuals to stand up and be engaged, and show leaders and decision makers that young people can and will make a difference,” he added.

Officially opened on 10 August 2009, the Asia Pacific Village provided a place where delegates can celebrate diversity as well as carry out small group discussions, informal education activities, art and dance performances, and cultural shows.

Besides directly talking and sharing views with local young people, Salman also participated in the AIDS Ambassadors meeting held on August 9. Sharing his own experience regarding youth as a resource on HIV prevention, Salman emphasized young people’s role in campaigning and advocating for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. “The leading question is how to harness and engage the energy and idealism of young people.”

Hosted by Ani Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s First Lady and National AIDS Ambassador, the AIDS Ambassadors and Champions Meeting aimed at addressing the need for leadership in the Asia and Pacific Region and the ways in which Ambassadors and Champions can have a greater effect in reducing the spread and impact of HIV. Promoting an agenda for youth was one of the objectives of this meeting.

As the lead singer and founding member of one South Asia's biggest rock bands "Junoon", Salman Admad became a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador in 2005 and has been assisting UNAIDS in its efforts to reverse the spread of HIV by raising awareness on AIDS issues.