Adolescents demand meaningful engagement in the AIDS response

27 November 2015

The central role that adolescents must play in the AIDS response was discussed during a two-day consultation held on 25 and 26 November in Harare, Zimbabwe. As part of the All In platform, adolescents from around the world came together to identify ways to meaningfully engage with governments as well as international, civil society and youth organizations.

Adolescents face many challenges that hinder their engagement in the AIDS response. Owing to their age, adolescents are often perceived as only recipients of HIV programmes and not involved in their design, implementation or evaluation.

While there is growing evidence that youth participation contributes to effective policies and programming for young people, the participants stressed the need for investing resources, mentoring, capacity-building and developing adolescent-friendly materials to support their active participation in HIV programming.

AIDS is the leading cause of death for adolescents in Africa and the second leading cause of death among adolescents globally. Deaths are declining in all age groups, except among adolescents. While adolescents are one of the populations being left behind in the reduction of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, they are also too often left out of important discussions related to policies and programmes that affect their health and lives.

Through a participatory process, an adolescent engagement road map was developed. Adolescent leaders agreed that in order to assure commitment, leadership, partnership and responsibility for ending the AIDS epidemic, they must be supported to organize and better engage with key stakeholders in policies, programming and service delivery.

In addition, the participants defined advocacy priorities to mobilize adolescent and youth communities in their respective countries in order to Fast-Track the AIDS response for adolescents. Key priorities include addressing gender equality, scaling up HIV testing, treatment, care and support, as well as adolescent-friendly information and services, and increasing funding for adolescent and youth-led programmes.

Described as an agenda for collective action, All In provides an opportunity for amplifying initiatives and investments by all stakeholders and addressing the social, political and legal contexts to ensure that no adolescents are left behind.

The All In adolescent consultation held in Harare was coordinated by UNAIDS and the PACT, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund, UN Women, the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Development Programme.


“There is no one else but you and me, right here, right now. Let’s make our generation the one that achieves the three zeros—zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination.”

Selina Amuela, African Youth and Adolescents Network

“This is the time to be all in, including adolescent participation, not just a one-off meeting but throughout all processes while creating spaces for adolescents and young people.”

Janet Bhila, Y+ and All In leadership group youth representative

“This is a unique moment where the United Nations, government and civil society representatives, youth organizations and adolescents are realizing the true potential of adolescent engagement in the AIDS response. What is unique about these discussions is that adolescents, mostly adolescent girls and key populations, are defining their own priorities and joining hands to say you cannot end the AIDS epidemic without us at the forefront.”

Mimi Melles, Youth Programmes Officer, UNAIDS

“This meeting has helped me to develop my listening skills as I have (unusually) been keeping quiet and hearing directly from adolescents expressing their ideas and aspirations for All In.”

Alan Smith, International Federation of Planned Parenthood