July 18 and 19 marked the beginning of the 20th annual International AIDS Conference. It was kicked off with a youth pre-conference event, in which young people gathered to discuss how their voices could be heard in the fight against AIDS. Upon leaving, they set forth a new slogan for the approach to AIDS in Africa: “Treat, reform, educate, love.”
The pre-conference event produced a Youth Action Plan, calling for all regional, national and international discussions on AIDS to incorporate the voices of the youth. Their focus is to be included in all AIDS advocacy, policy and treatment.
Young people have been particularly active in the AIDS fight over the last year, coming together to become involved in important decisions. Their main goal has been to see investment in high-impact programs around the world that provide help for young people on the ground.
With 2015 right around the corner, a main goal of young people is for the global post-2015 agenda to have a focus on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. They emphasized that by putting the health, well-being and human rights of young people at the forefront of the agenda, poverty and sickness can be reduced drastically around the world. Starting with youths is the best way to see real change.
Another idea that both youths and adults are pushing is the necessity of ending the stigma that is associated with AIDS in order to see an end to the disease. The adults at the AIDS conference shared many of the same beliefs that the youth called out in their event. In the end, the pre-conference emphasized to the young people the importance of joining the already established groups in order to work together to make progress in fighting AIDS.
Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, encouraged the youths assembled to “get organized and mobilize as a movement with clear political objectives. Build alliances with other youth sectors toward common goals, and together we will end the AIDS epidemic.”
– Hannah Cleveland
Sources: All Africa, Devex
Photo: Housing Works