AIDS activism has radically changed since the beginning of the epidemic. Young activists in countries around the world are increasingly demanding HIV services to be tailored to their needs and claiming their seat at the decision-making table. In order to reach these young activists, UNAIDS organized the meeting “Youth and UNAIDS: A pact for social transformation” in Hammamet, Tunisia from the 20th to 22nd of May 2013.
The meeting brought together 12 global and regional youth organizations (working on HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and lesbian, gay and transgender rights) with the 16 community, country and regional youth activists that constitute the recently established UNAIDS Youth Advisory Forum. The aim was to strategize on a clear direction to move the AIDS response forward for young people.
“Many small organizations lack the time, resources, and strategic space to reflect on their work and forge new alliances”, said Paolo Aguilera, director of the HIV Young Leaders Fund and member of the UNAIDS Youth Advisory Forum. “We called for this meeting to ensure the movement is responsive to the needs of young people most affected by HIV.
The main outcome of the consultation was a pact outlining five key themes that cut across individual organizational agendas: integrating HIV services into sexual and reproductive health services, with a focus on government accountability and sexuality education; enabling legal environments and removing punitive laws that impede access to services for young key populations at higher risk; scaling up treatment and disaggregating data for evidence informed advocacy, using resources effectively; and ensuring that HIV remains a priority in the Post-2015 development framework through strategic lobbying of national delegations.
Supporting increased collaboration and strategic direction of the youth movement in the AIDS response is a key priority for the new UNAIDS youth programme, which aims to increase youth leadership, ownership, and mobilization in the AIDS response at the country, regional, and global level by 2015 and beyond.
All participants in meeting agreed that to deliver results for young people on the ground, a decentralized, connected global youth movement –that thinks globally but acts locally- is needed to initiate a new wave of activism in the AIDS response.