Young people from all over Africa reaffirmed their commitment to ensure that AIDS related promises are fully implemented in Africa. Youth leaders made the announcement at a press conference held on 8 December at the XVII International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA). This was just one of the many events throughout the conference where young people demonstrated their leadership role in the AIDS response.
In an earlier meeting with youth delegates, UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé called on young people to ensure that HIV is prominently included in the new post-2015 health and development agenda. He stressed the need for youth leadership in galvanizing a movement for social change and shaping the future of the AIDS response.
At ICASA, the African Young Positives Network (AY+) collected more than 5 000 signatures calling for a specific goal on the end of AIDS by 2030. Many young people, civil society, representatives of international organisations and ICASA participants became signatories of the petition.
UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Luiz Loures alongside Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA Regional Director for eastern and southern Africa, Louise Van Deth, Executive Director of Stop AIDS Now!, Dr Joyce Mumah, youth leader, and Stella Nantumbwe Miss Uganda 2013/14 opened the Youth Pavilion. Speaking at the opening, Dr Loures said UNAIDS and its co-sponsors are committed to keeping young people central to the HIV agenda. He also emphasized on the need for strong and continued youth activism to ensure inclusive and sustained AIDS responses throughout the African continent.
In recognition of young people’s needs, ministers of health and education in eastern and southern Africa agreed to 10 key commitments to scale up comprehensive sexuality education and services for young people in the region. These commitments follow a recent UNESCO report: Young People Today, Time to Act Now, which brings together significant evidence on the challenges posed by the AIDS epidemic among youth in the region, especially for young women.
In 2012, an estimated 780 000 youth between the ages of 15-24 were newly infected with HIV in the world and 560 000 of new infections among young people occurred in Africa during the same year.
“We need to make sure that we have an HIV goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Ending AIDS depends on three things – zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths. It can be achieved”
UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé
“HIV doesn’t discriminate. So why should we discriminate against each other? The fight against this epidemic should focus on inclusion. I have decided to play my part as a musician to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Loyiso Bala, UNAIDS National Goodwill Ambassador for South Africa