There couldn’t be a better day on the 30th PCB meeting than the 6th of 6th Month of 2012 <That’s how we write months in Arabic, right Egyptians?> On this day, the session Young people and combination prevention was held and most importantly, the CrowdOutAIDS agenda was also shared with members of the PCB. Much respects to more than 5,000 young people who participated online and offline worldwide regional forums to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the UN to work more effectively with young people, youth networks and organizations.
The session saw Mr. Michael Borsch give an insight into Combination Prevention to HIV/AIDS. He highlighted the importance of comprehensive sex education in the language of young people. This same point was supported by Dr Ibra Ndoye-a gentleman who works with CNLS Senegal. In his presentation ‘Prevention Combine-Exemple du Senegal’, he stressed that young people in Senegal have been given a central role in planning, implementation and evaluation of health programmes. He said (much to our expectations) that, Senegal is using a rights based approach with young people seeing it as their right to define their health without any form of discrimination.
Then came the youth session which was modulated by the awesome Mabel-PCB representative from Argentina. The youth superstars that presented and shared with the PCB delegation were Samuel Kwesi Kissi (Ghana), Anita Krug (Australia), Rachel Arinii (Asia Pacific), Mikaela H (UNAIDS-Youth Programmes) and well, Brian Kanaahe Mwebaze Bilal (Uganda). Anita Krug led the discussion on stigmatisation of high risk groups especially IDU while Kissi and Rachel called for a deeper involvement and participation of young people in reproductive health programmes. Mikaela passionately shared the theory and practice behind CrowdOutAIDS. Brian presented the findings from the qualitative analysis of the CrowdOutAIDS with a focus on sexual and reproductive health rights. He stressed mainly on the hunger for comprehensive sex education, changing attitudes of society about sex, providing youth friendly and accessible reproductive health services as well as sending to hell, all forms of stigma and discrimination especially to high risk groups. The youth superstars shared with the PCB delegates about the need to clearly create a platform to scale down the youth leadership strategy. It was communicated that UNAIDS would appoint youth officers in each region to see to it that youth leadership is brought to table.
The afternoon was characterized by insightful, technical presentations and discussions. The WHO technical person Annette Vorster did her thing on HIV & Co Infections in IDU. Her presentation clearly showed the self-treatment gap that exists between the IDUs and their environment. She made it clear from her epidemiological analysis that IDUs exist and all countries should welcome the idea of catering for their health if they are to observe general public health. I also attended the presentation on HIV/AIDS in Poland, the Role of Civil Society in HCV/HIV Prevention and treatment access among IDU. I was particularly interested in knowing more about IDUs because in my country (Uganda) and the continent (Africa), this field is seen as ‘Not Sexy’. It doesn’t catch the attention of decision makers, not even organisations. There are arguably fewer organisations dealing with IDUs in my country than pregnant guinea fowls! The criminalization that policy makers have put on IDUs defies their commitment to ensuring Zero HIV infections for sure because, these brothers and sisters of ours will definitely not dare entering a health centre for health services.
I love evidence…and possibly, this is why my current study is looking at evaluations of reproductive health programmes! Yay!!! So, I also had a chance to drag myself into Roseline Rodriguez’ Community Level Evidence Informs Decision Making for HIV Combination Prevention’ session. In her presentation, she indirectly called for UNAIDS to focus on young people because they are the key targets in the War to ensure zero HIV infections. The same call was made but this time focusing on high risk groups thanks to the presentation from the Global Forum on MSM’s Dr.George Ayala entitled ‘Linking Data to Decision Making’.
After the sessions and feedback from the plenary had been conducted, I made sure I attended the NGO delegation debriefing session. While there was a thumbs up environment for the young people and combination prevention, the question of sustaining HIV/AIDS youth programmes especially on the funding part wasn’t answered up. UNAIDS representatives shared with the participants about the investment framework which was created to support the funding and sustainability of HIV and TV programmes. It looks though that more is needed to make this clear for countries.
While it’s true that I was pleased with everything that went on today, I know that ‘Talking a lot doesn’t stop onlookers from tying up a mad man’-African proverb, I (and the young people out there) no longer want to discuss issues repeatedly. It’s boring by the way, isn’t it? Issues on youth sexual and reproductive health rights have been made clear, the question remains on the implementation part and putting that badly needed enabling environment to ensure impact on the ground! Until then, we can only hope J Looking forward to Day 3