Thank you for giving us the space to reflect on the Draft Global AIDS Strategy from a youth perspective.
As civil society, we see enormous potential in building such a people-centered strategy, which shows a strong commitment to addressing social barriers such as human rights, gender inequality, and stigma, and discrimination. However, young people living with HIV, are saddened to see it miss the opportunity to recognize the leadership and expertise of young people. Repeatedly, we hear talks and read statements that mention the importance of youth-led organizations and peer-led interventions in the fight against HIV. However, the strategy as it is sidelined the same leadership we keep mentioning, and once again included young people as recipients of services. For young people living with HIV, it is not ONLY about access to treatment. We need a youth lens that enables us to focus on the rightful and meaningful engagement of young people living with HIV in all their diversity. It is high time that we understand them not as tokenistic but as an important contribution that has to be technically supported and properly resourced. That is why we have the global, regional, and country networks of young people living with HIV leading and championing the rights of young people living with HIV and their meaningful involvement in decisions that affect their health, lives, and well-being.
There are many researches that proclaim the efficacy of community peer-led interventions which have been adopted where young people living with HIV mobilize their peers to get tested for HIV, making sure that they start and stay on treatment, adhere well to their medication and having a suppressed viral load. Not only that, peer-supporters also have the capability to essentially provide mental and emotional support to their peers living with HIV.
The Global Network of Young People Living with HIV hereby call upon all stakeholders to ensure that the final strategy is clear and consistent with the urgent need to meaningfully include and engage youth leadership. Thank you!