The passion, dedication and commitment that young people are bringing to the AIDS response, driving the agenda and taking a leadership role, were celebrated by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé in closing remarks at the AIDS 2014 youth preconference event.
Mr Sidibé commended the 200 young people assembled, and others around the world, on how they have come together in the past year to increasingly become involved in key decision-making processes and ensure investment in high-impact programmes that work for young people on the ground. He advised them to redouble their efforts and build even stronger alliances in national movements with clear political goals and promised to share their central message: treat, reform, educate, love.
The two-day event, which took place on 18 and 19 July, addressed a number of key issues relevant to young people and culminated in the development of a Youth Action Plan calling for the inclusion of their voices in all national, regional and international discussions on AIDS advocacy, policy and treatment.
The event included a number of skills-building and knowledge exchange workshops, such as a session launching a new youth tool on participation in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and how to navigate its New Funding Model. The ACT 2015! plenary explored ways in which the youth sector could put the health, well-being and human rights of young people at the heart of the post-2015 agenda through advocacy at the national and global levels.
In addition, young members of key populations debated increasing their leadership role and how to challenge stigma and discrimination more effectively. World Health Organization guidelines relevant to young people and the need to reform parental consent laws, which can deny young people access to services such as HIV testing and other sexual and reproductive health services, were also examined.
Organized by the Melbourne YouthForce, the event was guided by the UNAIDS-supported pact for social transformation, a unifying, youth-led, collaborative international framework designed to advance the HIV-related needs of young people.
"Get organized and mobilize as a movement with clear political objectives. Build alliances with other youth sectors towards common goals, and together we will end the AIDS epidemic."
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
"When we started out a few years ago with the youth force at the International AIDS Conference there was literally no youth presence. But now youth issues are everybody's issues; it's really a sense of achievement."
Himakshi Piplani, co-chair of the youth pre-conference event
"For an AIDS-free generation, correct and timely information is critical for young people and we must collectively protect and uphold their rights to unfettered access to sexuality education, services and information; that is what UNFPA is committed to doing in cooperation with governments and civil society partners. Young people also experience added HIV vulnerability which impedes on their capacity to fulfill their potential; we must end all forms of discrimination."
Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA