The world currently holds the largest generation of young people in history who currently comprise of nearly 50% of the population within developing countries. Young people are organizing to demand increased transparency and accountability in governance and social justice though progressive social policy.

To garner support for change, young people are also using innovative technology and new modes of communication. These new modes of communication are also utilized to reach the estimated 4.6 million young people living with HIV globally, as well as the millions who are vulnerable to or affected by HIV. Building on this wave of action, and in line with its mandate to build leadership within the HIV response, the UNAIDS Secretariat’s Youth Programme works with youth-led and youth-serving organizations, with a particular emphasis on young people living with HIV and young key populations at higher risk, to create broad alliances for social change within the HIV and broader health and development agendas.

Recognizing the importance of youth leadership and engagement in the HIV response, UNAIDS launched an open and democratic online policy process, CrowdOutAIDS, using social media and crowd-sourcing technology, in October 2011. The process enabled more than 5,000 young people around the world to participate and take part in shaping UNAIDS’s youth agenda. These robust and informative discussions were summarized in a set of recommendations for how to increase youth leadership in the AIDS response which were presented to UNAIDS’ Executive Director Mr. Michel Sidibé in April 2012. As a result of the success of the CrowdOutAIDS process, as well as the increasing recognition of the importance of young people’s voices in policy-making, UNAIDS has expanded its Youth Programme.

Leveraging the new generation’s thirst for innovation, progressive change and creativity, the Secretariat’s new programme aims to help young people achieve the bold targets from the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS by increasing youth leadership, ownership, and mobilization in the HIV response by 2015 and beyond.

UNAIDS Agenda for Social Action in the AIDS Response

The UNAIDS Youth Programme is guided by the UNAIDS Agenda for Social Action in the AIDS Response which builds on previous work, including CrowdOutAIDS. The Agenda is a policy document that outlines the priorities and activities of the Youth Programme. It has four main objectives:

Objective 1: Strengthening young people’s leadership skills and ability to operate in a framework that advances human rights and gender equality.

Objective 2: Support a decentralized, organic youth-led movement in the HIV response.

2a) Movement creation for social change.

2b) Broker space for youth participation, with a particular focus on young women and young people among key populations at higher risk at national, regional and international levels.

Objective 3: Increase access to knowledge and strategic information on issues related to HIV and young people.

Objective 4: Mainstream a three-lens approach to working with young people (youth as partners, beneficiaries and leaders) within the UNAIDS Secretariat.

In November 2013, UNAIDS will  initiate a new round of CrowdOutAIDS, with the aim to support community dialogues for social change and inspire a new wave of social action in the AIDS response, including mobilization of the youth constituency in the lead up to the post-2015 negotiations. The dialogue will lead up to the commemoration of World AIDS Day on 1 December 2013.

UNAIDS/ Youth Advisory Forum

In alignment with the CrowdOutAIDS recommendation UNAIDS has now established a Youth Advisory Forum .
The open call for applications was disseminated on the 1st March 2013 with the deadline of the 15th of March. A total of 215 applications were submitted and then screened by the regional youth offices in each region, who shortlisted 4-6 candidates per region. The members  includes 16 young people aged 15-29 and is geographically and gender balanced. Moreover, young people living with HIV account for over a quarter of members. Up to five UNAIDS Secretariat staff act as observers to ensure capacity building, mentorship and knowledge transfer.

The UNAIDS Youth Advisory Forum will be a mechanism for open dialogue and exchange between UNAIDS and the diverse youth constituency with the mandate to:

Provide strategic advice to the UNAIDS Secretariat on policies and programmes related to young people and HIV

Update the UNAIDS Secretariat on emerging developments within the youth and HIV movements at local, regional and international levels

Provide, on a yearly basis, a short summary analysis including key recommendations and follow up actions to strengthen the UNAIDS Secretariat ability to work with and for young people

Advise the UNAIDS Secretariat on effective strategies and tools to promote meaningful youth participation and leadership in the AIDS response at country, regional and global level for maximum impact

Foster partnerships between the UNAIDS Secretariat and key youth constituencies and movements, with en emphasis on connecting HIV to the broader health and development agendas

Shape and co-lead advocacy efforts together with the UNAIDS Secretariat to mobilize and inspire youth leadership in the AIDS response.

Youth and UNAIDS: a PACT for social transformation in the AIDS response

The UNAIDS Youth Programme is supporting collaboration for concerted action across diverse but narrow organizational agendas in the youth HIV response.  At a landmark meeting in May 2013, youth-led civil society organizations identified priorities 5 key priorities for the overall youth movement, referred to as the PACT Framework. Those priorities are:

  • HIV integrated into sexual and reproductive health services, with a focus on government accountability;
  • Enabling legal environments, with a focus on disassociating age of consent from service access and removing punitive laws that impede service access for young key populations at higher risk;
  • Prevention and treatment, with a focus on treatment scale-up and data disaggregation for evidence informed advocacy, and for the availability of harm reduction services for young people who use drugs;
  • Effective use of resources, with a focus increased transparency in Global Fund (GF) spending for young people and the establishment of a network of youth organizations that sit on country coordination mechanisms linked to youth delegates of the GF board; and
  • Ensure that HIV remains a priority in the Post-2015 development framework through strategic lobbying of, and relationship building with, national delegations leading up to the 2014 GA.

While youth-led civil society organizations will take the lead on advancing these priorities, UNAIDS will provide key technical and political support to the organizations. For more information about the PACT, as well as opportunities to contribute and join the PACT, please see here.

UNAIDS Special Youth Fellowship Programme

Photo : Abhinay Singh from India, Ritah Namwiza from Uganda and Anthony Adero, UNAIDS Special Youth Fellows 2011. Credit: UNAIDS

Photo : Abhinay Singh from India, Ritah Namwiza from Uganda and Anthony Adero, UNAIDS Special Youth Fellows 2011. Credit: UNAIDS

The Special Youth Fellowship Programme, part of UNAIDS’ New Generation Leadership Initiative, was established in 2008, and so far 15 fellows have completed the programme.

The purpose of the programme is to engage young people including those living with HIV, from low and middle income countries in policy development and programming as well as build their capacity and reinforce their leadership skills to contribute to the AIDS response and broader social change. The programme also serves to give a youth-lens to the work of UNAIDS in the key areas where the fellows work.

The UNAIDS Special Youth Programme recruits young people aged 20-24 from developing countries with some programme experience in HIV-related issues to join UNAIDS for a 9-month remunerated fellowship. The fellowship is divided into three parts with an induction period which prepares the fellow for her/his team placement which in turn is followed by a headquarter team placement and posting at the UNAIDS country office in the fellow’s country of origin


The information in this section only relates to the work that the UNAIDS Secretariat does within its youth programme. UNAIDS cosponsors, such as UNICEF and UNFPA, have the mandate to co-lead on youth issues, also have programmes on HIV and young people.