Lilongwe — Youth living with HIV through their newly launched National Association of Young People Living with HIV in Malawi have asked government and other stakeholders to involve them in the decision making process on issues that directly affect them.
Speaking during the launch of the association which was graced by Minister of Industry and Trade, Sosten Gwengwe, on behalf of President Dr. Joyce Banda at Kabudula Primary School in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Kabudula, Faith Kalonga who is the Association's interim chairperson said time has come for government and the stakeholders to involve the youth in decision making through the association.
"For a long time the youth did not have a platform to voice out issues that concerned them as other platforms were not conducive for youth participation.
"The launch of this association symbolises the start of the youth active participation in the fight against HIV," said Kalonga who was born HIV reactive in 1985 and started accessing Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) in 2002.
Amokobe Sande, Country Director for United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) concurred with Kalonga saying as much as the country is addressing HIV related issues that affect the youth, it is important to include the youth who make up 50 percent of new infections more of them being among adolescents in decision making processes to make meaningful impact.
"Addressing the needs and concerns of the youth is one thing but including them in decision making processes is another.
"Let us make sure that this young association is at the table guiding us as we make important decision about responding to HIV in ways that are meaningful to young people and in ways that will truly bring the end to AIDS," said Sande before promising technical and financial support to the newly formed association.
Vice Chairperson for Malawi Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (Manet+) which is the mother body for the newly formed association, Master Mphande, said his association believes in greater participation of people living with HIV hence the launch of the youth association.
"We may talk of young people living with HIV but we must understand that they are not a homogenous group. They are in different categories, we have young people in closes, we have those who are heads of households because of situation.
"As a country, we cannot afford to leave young people who constitute a large percentage of the country outside decision making," said Mphande who lobbied for support for the newly launched association to make sure that it grows and promote youth participation in the HIV fight.
Gwengwe, who participated in focus group discussions with the youth where they shared experiences and suggestions on how best economic and nutritional support could be channeled to HIV reactive youth and also eliminate the spread of the virus, HIV related discrimination and HIV related deaths before launching the association by lighting a large candle, said the association which is a brain child of Dr. Joyce Banda is proof that government wants to involve the youth in decision making.
"The National Association of Young People Living with HIV in Malawi is important because the fight against HIV and AIDS will be won or lost with this age group. Young people will determine the future course of HIV and AIDS pandemic in Malawi so we need to support them in any way possible," said the Minister.
"The youth deserve special attention when it comes to HIV and AIDS services such as prevention, treatment, care and support," said Gwengwe before donating four CD4 count machines to Chinamwali Private Hospital in Zomba, Mwaiwathu Hospital in Blantyre, Wezi Private Clinic in Mzuzu and City Centre Clinic in Lilongwe to enhance access to treatment among the youth.