Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do in the AIDS response both in Kenya and around the world?
I am Mayah’s mama, she’s my 4 year old daughter and I draw so much inspiration from being her mother. I intentionally live a life that will make her proud. She is the North in my compass. I am in school for I want her to see me going for my dreams so she knows she can get to the things she want to achieve.
I am the team leader and founding member of Positive Young Women Voices, a community based organization in Nairobi working to advance the gender equity and equality agenda while empowering young women and adolescent girls to live their full potential. I sit at the Kenya Coordinating Mechanism to the Global Fund representing communities and at the NGO Delegation to the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board. Ensuring that our voices are heard is the aim of my advocacy in these platforms.
How is COVID19 affecting youth leadership in the HIV response?
COVID-19 effects are being felt by all in the world. With most people losing their livelihoods and lives, these are hard times. The limited spaces and resources do not make the situation any easier as more of the existing resources are channeled to measures that tackle this epidemic. Young people are still not adequately represented in the decision making platforms and the possibility that our needs are being treated as homogeneous cannot be denied. I think young leaders are having it harder as the digital divide is limiting the opportunities to engage and to influence the work that is taking place. There is no guarantee if you were being funded, there will be renewal of the funding opportunities and if you were not, like us, the possibilities are slim and that is scary to the work that we do and if the gains made will be maintained.
Why does youth leadership in the HIV response still matter?
We understand our issues and needs better and our approach and ideas cannot be watered down. Our perspective is important in ensuring the programmes take into consideration our priorities. The burden of HIV is felt more by young people and especially adolescent girls and young women. If we are not shaping the response, it is bound to fail. We have made some strides in involvement of young people but still, we are a long way from doing right by this group.
What message do you have for young people attending AIDS2020?
I know it is not easy, you will probably have a hard time attending all the sessions as the time zones collide and access to internet might lock some of us out but do all that you can to ensure that your important voice is heard and your priorities included. Let us not get tired or give up. Hope to see you all.
My name is Sargis Ghazaryan and I am the Resource Mobilisation and Partnership working group lead for The PACT and I will be heading to the AIDS2020. Join me on the ROAD to AIDS2020.
This will be the first time I will be involved in a major AIDS conference hosted by IAS. I am eager to take part in AIDS2020 because I believe the conference is a great platform that brings together many young activists from across the globe working not only on just HIV but also SRHR. I think the conference allows different groups of people from different backgrounds and experiences to come together and help frame new ways of thinking to advance the HIV response. There are several components of AIDS2020 which I am very interested in such as comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), women’s empowerment and mental health. I hope to contribute to AIDS2020 with my experiences in SRHR and young people at the country, regional and global level.
I think there are many ways The PACT can contribute to AIDS2020, considering that now I am the Resource Mobilisation and Partnership working group lead, I will use the platform to bring visibility to The PACT agenda and collaboration. The PACT has a lot to contribute in terms of showcasing best practices and innovative solutions but more importantly how young people are key players in the HIV response. Establishing key partnerships is a priority of mine for The PACT and my involvement in the conference will provide a chance for me to network and bring visibility to our cause.
I believe all young people at the conference should really maximise the opportunity to gain new and valuable insight and absorb as much information as possible to take back home. I think the conference will help foster creativity and bring about new solutions for meaningful youth engagement. I am also the international coordinator of Y-PEER, and Y-PEER have also secured sessions and a booth at the conference which will explore issues related to young people and SRHR. I hope many people will take the opportunity to stop by and have a chat.
The COVID-19 pandemic has surely been a key focus of 2020 and I can only assume this will also be recurring theme and discussion through-out the conference. We as young people have faced many specific challenges because of the pandemic, and I hope the conferences provides an opportunity for us to share those experiences and to find practical solutions to address the needs of the community. I also would like to take back as much knowledge on COVID-19, in terms of best practices, and apply that to the work Y-PEER and The PACT does with young people. In a time like this it’s important for us all to unite and fight against COVID-19, but more importantly make sure young people are not left behind.
I look forward to joining you all on the ROAD to AIDS2020.
Sargis Ghazaryan - firstname.lastname@example.org
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has become a global health emergency, and we can already see the impact this has had on the HIV response. COVID-19 was first reported in Kenya on the 12th March 2020 and posed significant challenges for people living with HIV (PLHIV). The Kenyan government instituted several measures to contain the spread, including but not limited to, a nationwide curfew between 19:00 to 05.00, cessation of movement in and out of the most affected areas, in particular, Nairobi, which has seen more and more confirmed COVID-19 cases.
According to Kenya’s National Aids Control Council, 1.6 million people are living with HIV as of 2018. Kenya has an average HIV prevalence rate of 6% and is considered one of the six HIV 'high burden' countries in Africa. The western part of the country through Homabay, Siaya and Kisumu are the most affected with HIV with rates of 25.7%, 23.7% and 19.3% respectively. These statistics highlight the challenges a global pandemic, such as the coronavirus will have on vulnerable communities, including those who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The pandemic has since brought challenges in the fight against HIV/AIDs where evident disruption in services and access to information and commodities (food, water and health supplies) have been reported. This particular issue of misinformation perpetuates the negative stereotypes associated with understandings of viruses, specifically HIV/AIDS, but also results in higher instances for stigma and discrimination.
Since the world had shifted its focus onto COVID-19 and information concerning the pandemic, many news channels have limited the sharing of information about HIV/AIDs prevention, testing, and treatment. While at the moment there has been no significant research on transmission rates, especially with the coronavirus and people living with HIV, there has however been a rise of misinformation being spread suggesting PLHIV have higher chances of contracting the coronavirus.
There is a growing concern among PLHIV, with questions on access to essential medicine such as ARVs in a global crisis. With factories at a halt, reports have suggested shortage of supply for male and female condoms, HIV testing kits such as HIV rapid diagnostic kits, lubricants, and other essential medical supplies. With these concerns, organisations such as Maisha Youth began recruiting community volunteers to assist in the distribution of condoms and are working to support HIV and SRHR causes in the time of COVID-19. Likewise, many community based organisations have stepped up to provide information, as well as provide health related services where needed.
Recently the Ministry of Health Kenya indicated a significant drop in the number of people seeking medication at health facilities. Just like for any other health needs, this may suggest that PLHIV may be avoiding health facilities and clinics in fear of how the country has responded to COVID-19. Adherence to ARV's remains of critical importance for PLHIV, especially in these times, therefore, the importance of protecting people living with HIV should be of central concern alike.
We've made great strides, and today, HIV infection is no longer life-threatening thanks to advancements made in medicine, science and technology. That said, HIV should always remain a public health concern. Therefore it's essential that governments mainstream HIV prevention, testing, care and treatment amid the COVID19 response by also providing accurate and reliable information for PLHIV and those affected by HIV.
Written By: Fatinato Natse Contact: email@example.com