Young people to call for strengthened HIV prevention at the regional universal access consultation in Latin America
28 February 2011
From Brazil to Mexico young people in Latin America are busily coordinating their inputs to communicate a unified message in the upcoming regional universal access consultation to be held 1-2 March 2011 in Mexico.
The main recommendation young people in Latin America are proposing is the need to strengthen HIV prevention programmes for young people. Ricardo Baruch from GYCA Mexico, who has been assisting with the consultations says, “HIV prevention continues to be our main challenge. We want evidence-based strategies that respond to all youth, particularly gays, lesbians, trans and intersex youth, youth using drugs and youth doing sex work and others in extreme vulnerability.”
The regional focal point for Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) in Latin America, Manuella Donato from Brazil, explained how they have been collecting input from coalition members, Youth RISE, Advocates for Youth, The Global Network of people living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+) and Positive Youth. Participating in the regional consultation is an important part of their strategy for youth engagement in the HIV response in Latin America. It is also part of a broader strategy to place young people at the centre of the upcoming United Nations High-level Meeting on AIDS.
We will mobilize our peers and motivate them to demand that their rights be fulfilled so that we can achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support by 2015
Manuella Donato, regional focal point for The Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS in Latin America
The 2010 data from UNAIDS shows clear evidence that young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution by adopting safer sexual practices. However young people still face challenges in accessing youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services relating to HIV.
“The homophobia and machismo in Latin America is a major barrier to improve access to HIV prevention services and information for all,” notes Mr Baruch.
Young people in Latin America are also demanding the implementation of a comprehensive set of programmes that put young people’s leadership at the centre of national responses. They argue that such programmes should provide rights-based sexual and reproductive health education and services to empower young people to prevent sexual transmission of HIV among their peers.
They are working to achieve access to HIV testing and prevention efforts with and for young people in the context of sexuality education. They are also advocating for the establishment of enabling legal environments, education and employment opportunities to reduce vulnerability to HIV.
Since the World Youth Conference in 2010 and the HIV and youth empowerment event organised on the side-lines of the conference, young people have participated in a series of national universal access consultations. Now they will voice their joint recommendations through Ms Donato as she delivers the opening statement during the Latin American regional universal access consultation in Mexico.
In line with the strategic direction to revolutionize HIV prevention within the UNAIDS Strategy, the UNAIDS Cosponsor agencies in Latin America have chosen the work with young people as one of their main priorities for 2010-12. Following the Mexico Declaration of sexual education for all, signed on 01 August 2008 by Ministers of Education and Health, the UN response in the region will focus on the development of HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health policies and programmes for all young people.
UNAIDS Regional Director for Latin America, César A. Núñez emphasizes the importance of engaging young people in the response at all levels. “A partnership between young people, the national AIDS programmes, the UN family and bilateral partners will be crucial to respond to the vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths.”
Manuella Donato and her colleagues from Latin America are coming to the consultation ready to move the prevention revolution ahead. “We will mobilize our peers and motivate them to demand that their rights be fulfilled so that we can achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support by 2015”.