Moving forward with positive youth leadership

03 July 2017

Young people are critical to achieving the targets of the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS. While young people living with HIV are playing an active role in the AIDS response by providing information, care and peer support, their networks need more support and resources.

To advance efforts to engage young people living with HIV in decision-making on issues that affect their lives, 40 young people from 19 countries representing networks of young people living with HIV met in Cape Town, South Africa, on 19 and 20 June. The Intergenerational Summit for Positive Youth Leadership was held with support from UNAIDS, the Adolescent Treatment Coalition and partners.

The objectives of the meeting included analysing the capacities of networks of young people living with HIV, identifying barriers and opportunities for participation and facilitating a dialogue on how young people living with HIV, and their networks, can be strengthened.

Attending the meeting was Yana Panfilova, a young leader from Teenergizer!, the Ukranian and Eurasian Union of Adolescents and Youth Organizations. She said, “Interruptions and lack of motivation for antiretroviral therapy, discrimination and self-stigma, lack of quality prevention education and barriers to access HIV testing are key challenges faced by adolescents living with HIV in eastern Europe and central Asia.”

Chinmay Modi, a board member representing youth and adolescents in the National Coalition of People Living with HIV in India, said, “Stigma and discrimination remains a key barrier to engaging adolescents and young people living with HIV in the AIDS response.”

While young people are advocating for greater political commitment and action to address the challenges, they are also responding to them through their networks. Moises Maciel, a representative of the National Network of Adolescents and Youth Living with HIV/AIDS in Brazil, said, “The main mission of our social movement is to group, welcome and support adolescents and young people living with HIV. We advocate and take action to strengthen public policies against the stigma and impact of HIV.”

Carlo Andre Oliveras, Coordinator of the Adolescent HIV Treatment Coalition, said, “We see that the majority of work is done by adolescents and young people on a volunteer basis without any financial support and mentorship. This meeting is a start to assess where we are in our movement. Today, the world is facing many challenges; we should not lose sight of the opportunity to make things better.”

“My take-away message from this meeting is that every network can improve their work if we have a more horizontal coordination, if we share our accomplishments and failures, our success and difficulties. I am leaving this meeting feeling empowered, and as soon as I am back in Brazil I’ll use this power to change things for real,” said Mr Maciel.