By Ricardo Baruch
More than 30 young activists from all over the world participated in the High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS that took place in New York. During 3 days (and some weeks before that), young people participated in negotiations, panels and meetings in order to share their experiences and demands.
The High Level Meeting started with the adoption of the Political Declaration that was negotiated in the previous weeks by UN member states and some CSOs. Many representatives of civil society were very disappointed that there were no opportunities to improve the language related to key populations, harm reduction, comprehensive sexuality education and other important issues that are key for the response to the epidemic and that are also controversial for some conservative governments. Some of the relevant language is included at the end of this document.
Even though young people were present at the HLM, in the sessions of 2006 and 2011 there were certainly more. In general, there was less participation from civil society. Loyce Maturu from Zimbabwe, L’Orangelis Thomas from Puerto Rico, Ian Royer from Trinidad & Tobago, Jeff Acaba from Philippines and other young activists were speakers in different events but there were only a few opportunities for young activists to express their opinions. There were two youth-related events: one was organized by UNAIDS Brazil and the other was convened by Dutch NGOs with the participation of some PACT members including Annah Sango, Tania Martinez, Niluka Perera and Carlo Oliveras. Other PACT members present at the HLM included Oliver Anene, Michalina Drejza and Ruben Pages from UNAIDS.
The day before the HLM, approximately 25 young people participated in the Youth Pre-meeting where some strategies were developed and people had the chance to network and update each other about what was happening at that moment, when there was uncertainty about whether or not the Declaration would be open for negotiations.
The HLM comprised speeches from Ministers of Health, HIV program directors and other high level officials at the Plenary of the General Assembly, but there were also thematic panels and many side events organized by governments and CSOs. There were some important announcements in the context of the HLM such as a large investment from PEPFAR for key populations and also, the launch of the new WHO treatment guidelines.
If you want to read the Political Declaration, see the attached document. Some relevant language that was included for youth is the following:
Concrete targets (2020) on new infections and treatment (65, a-d), including adolescents and young people, and regional focus
65 (a) – 75% reduction of new infections among young people as part of 15+
65 (b) – 95% reduction of new infections among adolescents 10-14, as part of children and young adolescents
65 (c) – Increase to 81% number of young people and adults on treatment, as part of 15+. Same target for children and adolescents 10-14
Specific commitment with young women (15-24) (61 f): globally each year to below 100,000 by 2020
Relevant paragraphs for young people:
62 (c): Commit to accelerate efforts to scale up scientifically accurate age-appropriate comprehensive education, relevant to cultural contexts, that provides adolescent girls and boys and young women and men, in and out of school, consistent with their evolving capacities, with information on sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention, gender equality and women’s empowerment, human rights, physical, psychological and pubertal development and power in relationships between women and men, to enable them to build self-esteem, informed decision-making, communication and risk reduction skills and develop respectful relationships, in full partnership with young persons, parents, legal guardians, caregivers, educators and health-care providers, in order to enable them to protect themselves from HIV infection;
62 (j): Commit to eliminate barriers, including stigma and discrimination in health-care settings, to ensure universal access to comprehensive HIV diagnostic, prevention, treatment, care and support for people living with, at risk of, and affected by HIV, persons deprived of their liberty, indigenous people, children, adolescents, young people, women, and other vulnerable populations;
63 (b): Commit to strengthen measures at the international, regional, national, and local and community levels to prevent crimes and violence against, and victimization of, people living with, at risk of, and affected by HIV
(…) review and reform, as needed, legislation that may create barriers or reinforce stigma and discrimination, such as, age of consent laws, laws related to HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission, policy provisions and guidelines that restrict access to services among adolescents.