Guest Blog: Supporting young people to lead the global HIV response

Today is World AIDS Day. CFID is pleased to host a guest blog from Stop AIDS talking about the transformational impact of youth leadership on the global HIV response.

Photograph provided by Stop AIDS: Youth Stop AIDS Day of Action in Parliament urging the UK government to keep their eye on the ball and end AIDS by 2030.

Supporting young people to lead the global HIV response

The global response to HIV and AIDS is testament to what international development can achieve and the UK has led the fight from day one. This World AIDS Day - 19.5 million people living with HIV are receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. AIDS is no longer a death sentence and new HIV infections are easily preventable.

But despite enormous progress made within the HIV response – we’re still only halfway there. Nearly half of people living with HIV are still not on treatment and 1.8 million people are newly infected each year.

Young people are disproportionately affected by HIV. Less than half of young people know their HIV status and only around 1/3 of young people have comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV. In 108 countries there are still laws that mean that young people need their parents’ permission to take an HIV test.

But young people are also a key part of the solution, and their leadership within the global response will be critical to reaching the SDG target on ending AIDS by 2030. Young people are best placed to reach their peers with relevant and appropriate information about HIV. They can tell us about the issue that affect their lives and what kinds of programmes they want and need.

Youth Stop AIDS demonstrates the transformational impact of youth leadership on the global HIV response. This youth-led movement is campaigning for a world without AIDS. Supported by STOPAIDS and Restless Development they are running a campaign called It Ain’t Over which calls on the UK government to increase financial, programmatic and political commitment to the global HIV response. Since the campaign began in September 2016, over 200 young people have engaged their MPs to raise awareness about the global HIV response. The campaign has received acknowledgement and support from many Conservative parliamentarians, including Minister Alistair Burt MP who recently wrote, ‘I applaud the Youth Stop AIDS campaigners’ resolve to keep the spotlight on how HIV impacts on people’s lives’

After meeting with Youth Stop AIDS campaigners, Lord Black of Brentwood, Vice Chair of the APPG on HIV and AIDS said, ‘Youth Stop AIDS campaigners play a critical role in reminding parliamentarians and the public of the work that remains to be done if we are to end AIDS by 2030. I will continue to raise the issue of HIV, and particularly the criminalisation of groups most affected by HIV, in parliament’.

This week the campaign held a World AIDS Day parliamentary reception with the APPG on HIV and AIDS. Three young people from Botswana, Indonesia and the UK spoke and shared their experiences of living with HIV.

Davi, 26, was one of those speakers. He left home when he was 17 after being sexually harassed by a teacher in his school. After leaving home he worked in a massage parlour as a sex worker. He found out he was HIV positive at 19 and decided he didn’t want anyone he knew to go through the same experiences as him. He started working as a volunteer outreach worker for an HIV organisation. Today he’s the national coordinator for the young key population (groups most affected by HIV) network in Indonesia. He’s also leading research into the impact of laws in Indonesia that restrict young people’s access to HIV testing. Davi embodies the resilience and passion that make young people best placed to lead the global HIV response.

At the reception, the UK government pledged to continue to lead the global HIV response and support young people to do the same. Commenting after the reception Joint International Development and Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt MP said -

"I’m proud that the Conservative Party in government has steered the UK to lead the global HIV response and we remain committed to ending AIDS by 2030, in line with the SDGs. Achieving this target will only be possible if we get the response right for young people. Young people are the experts on their own lives and are best placed to reach their peers with appropriate and relevant HIV services. DFID will support young people to be partners, leaders and advocates within the global HIV response – involving young people in the design, implementation and monitoring of programmes that affect their lives and supporting young people to engage in global decision making processes."