Feature story

Young people call on the world to #UPROOT the causes that put them at risk of HIV

24 July 2018

The PACT, a global coalition of youth organizations working on HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights, gathered in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 24 July at the International AIDS Conference, a year after launching #UPROOT, a youth-led political agenda to end AIDS by 2030.

The session saw youth advocates share materials developed by #UPROOT to inspire and mobilize more young people to act at the country level to challenge harmful laws, advocate for youth participation in the AIDS response and build strategic and more resilient partnerships to end AIDS.

Discussions focused on persisting legal barriers that young people face to access services, including age of consent laws on HIV testing and treatment. In 2017, 73% of 125 countries reported having age of consent requirements for HIV testing, out of which 31% require consent for adolescents younger than 18 years old. The PACT, through the #UPROOT agenda, has developed a set of policy briefs aimed at youth advocates to tackle these legal and policy constrains to access services.

Young people’s participation in the HIV response was highlighted as a key determinant to ensure its effectiveness and sustainability. Youth participation in key decision-making spaces is still a challenge. A recent UNAIDS report, Youth and HIV: mainstreaming a three-lens approach to youth participation, suggests that “while young people participate in the development, consultation, validation or review of strategic documents that guide the HIV response at the country level, they participate much less frequently in spaces where decisions are made about the policy framework or resources invested in the HIV response.”

Greater technical and financial support to young people’s participation in community responses to HIV was also highlighted as a pending need of youth-led organizations and networks working on HIV.

Strengthening collaboration between medical students and young key populations to reform national medical curricula in order to tackle discrimination in health care was also a focus of the session. In 2017, under the #UPROOT agenda, the International Federation of Medical Students Associations signed a memorandum of understanding with youth organizations and networks, including networks of young key populations and young people living with HIV, to respond to discrimination in health care, resulting in stronger collaborations in several countries, including Egypt and Uganda.

All the resources developed by the #UPROOT agenda thus far, including guidance on youth organizing, advocacy and accountability in advancing the AIDS response and young people’s rights, will soon be available on an online action centre.


“The #UPROOT agenda is grounded in young people’s frustration at being left behind in the HIV response, but also highlights our hope and optimism that by working together and tackling the underlying systemic issues that keep us at risk, we can change things for the better.”

Hayley Gleeson HIV Technical Adviser, International Planned Parenthood Federation

“In this day and age, it is unacceptable that adolescents and young people still struggle to access HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. The world has the money, the know-how but unfortunately not the political will to end AIDS. We need to #UPROOT the barriers that hinder political will.”

Niluka Perera Regional Coordinator, Youth Voices Count

“We have a global discrimination epidemic, and it is one of several root causes that keep putting young people at risk of HIV infection and AIDS-related deaths. The end of AIDS is possible, but we have miles to go to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to services and is treated with dignity and respect.”

Ruben Pages Youth Programmes Coordinator, UNAIDS