Five representatives from Y+ convened at PATA 2019 Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa together with over 200 participants from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), eSwatini, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, United States of America and United Kingdom. This year’s summit targeted implementing partner organisations, community-based organisations, lead organisations, Y+ focal persons, donors, policymakers, young people and Ministry of Health representatives.
Our heartfelt thank you goes to the READY+ consortium under Frontline AIDS and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, M.A.C AIDS Fund, Positive Action Children’s Fund, Positive Action for Adolescents and the ELMA Foundation for financially supporting this year’s gathering.
The PATA 2019 Summit was a collaborative meeting that shared lessons and action, service delivery improvements and accountability in safeguarding the rights of adolescents and young people to access quality adolescent-friendly health services which are responsive to their sexual and reproductive health and rights and wellbeing. The summit provided a dynamic and productive linking, learning and networking platform to examine progress and feature service delivery models that effectively crossing divides, build bridges and break barriers in HIV-SRHR linkage and community engagement.
The aims of the summit were to:
Tinashe Rufurwadzo, Y+ Secretariat responsible for communication and advocacy with support from Luann Hatane, PATA Executive Director chaired the official opening of PATA 2019 Summit and supported communication and media throughout the summit using Y+ Network, PATA and READY Movement social media platforms. The first day provided a regional update against the AIDS-Free Agenda, highlighting the progress and priorities, before focusing on HIV and SRHR service delivery for adolescents and young people.
The Global Network of People Living with HIV supported Y+ and ATHENA Network to co-facilitate the skills building session which brought together over 100 delegates who were eager to know more about greater involvement of young people living with HIV as programmers, health care workers, advocates, researchers as well as key players in monitoring and evaluation.
At the end of the workshop, the participants agreed on the meaningful participation and engagement of adolescents strategies;
Gladys Gumbo, READY+ Focal Point and READY to Lead Coordinator of Zimbabwe Young Positives joined Eddie Mkhatshwa, Faith Kiruthi, Lynette Mudekunye, Futhie Dlamini and Aveneni Mangombe on a panel. The panellists critically discussed the issue of reaching ALL without prejudice through integrated HIV-SRHR services. In her talk, Gladys brought to light the important work which is being done by Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS) who are supporting their peer to know their HIV status, start and adhere well to their treatment. The issue of safe spaces was highlighted which is very imperative for adolescents and young people living with HIV as they meet and discuss wide range of issues that they come across with as well as proffer recommendations on how best they can move forward despite the challenges they face. There is need to look beyond access to getting antiretroviral treatment and support the mental well-being of young people living with HIV.
This session was co-facilitated by Y+ with support from PATA. The central message for this session was to make a difference to reduce stigma in a large way means being prepared to have honest and open conversations with our friends and families – as well as looking inside ourselves at the values and attitudes that we carry through our everyday lives. We all have the capacity to start with changes in what seems like a small way, within our own lives, which added together can enable change in a very large way
Reaching global targets will require a shift away from intensive, individualised care to that of an expanded public health approach, which is characterised by decentralisation, simplification, task-shifting and extended community-based service delivery. Y+ Programmes Manager, Cedric Nininahazwe presented on young people leading the way in-service linkage, delivery and advocacy. One of the innovations which he presented on was the READY to Care booklet which was developed by young people living with HIV; it informs health providers about the dos and don’ts in service provision to adolescents and young people living with HIV. It includes experience illustration, a charter for health facilities that offer friendly services and a scorecard that can be used to assess the quality of services provided to adolescents and young people living with HIV. The same information was shared with those who could not be part of the summit and a webinar series was organized which Cedric actively participated in.
The PATA 2019 Summit ended on a high note with a distinguished panel; Shaffiq Essajee, Cedric Nininahazwe, Sanana Mubebo, Shaun Mellors, Sharifah Kyomukama and Rogers Simiyu.
“Meaningful participation, involvement and engagement have been in conversations, but l am optimistic now how things are moving based on how things are happening now. Some stakeholders have started to invest resources in youth-led programmes and activities. It is happening and there is a change,” – Cedric Nininahazwe
Examples were drawn from Y+ Network which is strengthening the leadership of young people living with HIV from local to global level, empowering them to be meaningfully engaged in political and programmatic spaces that impact their lives. The other example was drawn from the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV which is leading the Y+ beauty pageant which is looking at raising awareness on issues around HIV with special focus on adolescents and young people living with HIV.
READY+ Focal Points from eSwatini, Zimbabwe and Mozambique highlighted the perspective of young people in all the sessions. They casted the lens on all the topics which were being discussed and reminded everyone to keep bringing it back to the perspective of adolescents and young people living with HIV.
It is imperative to know note that adolescents and young people know best. The only way to truly end the HIV epidemic among young people is by putting young people at the forefront of the HIV response. Young peoples’ involvement in decision-making processes, in the planning, delivery and evaluation of services must shift from tokenistic to meaningful and must be acknowledged, nurtured and resourced.