+256 701 870878 / +256 776 385819 / P. O. Box 25914 Kampala / firstname.lastname@example.org
UYAHF's meeting participation; Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa meeting
The purpose of the meeting was to provide space for dialogue on leadership for leaving no one behind, specifically focusing on improved access to HIV and health services for adolescent girls and young women; and expanded access to HIV testing young people, especially men. The meeting also contextualized the role of leadership and that of the Champions.
The meeting started with opening remarks with the minister of health of the Republic of Mozambique and HE Chisssano who welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted that young people are less informed about their own sexual reproductive health and rights and this puts them, at a bigger risk as they are not put in a better position to make informed decisions about their health. He added that putting young people at the fore front of everything like interventions and programs that affect their lives if they are to get tangible results. He added that there is a need for a whole social transformation is needed.
HE Chissano the former president of Mozambique in his remarks also thanked everybody for coming and welcomed them in Mozambique and asked them to feel at home because the country was in total peace whose whole energy is being geared towards fighting and reducing the HIV epidemic. He reliably informed the participants that Mozambique is one of the countries that have high HIV infection rates due to the position of its location that attracts a lot of foreigners. He introduced the think tank that was formed under the leadership of UNAIDS to facilitate strategic thinking on how to fight Aids , that is independent and is made up of people from the different walks of life like doctors, lawyers, representative of the key populations, policy makers, judges, academicians. These committed to human rights and linking them with justice, fair distribution of resources and all injustices that affect negatively the lives of young people especially the girl child.
He went ahead to ask the participants what were the leadership specific issues that Champions should be focusing on regarding adolescent girls and young women and men and these included the following,
Ensuring that young people have access to age appropriate information that is essential for their growth and development not forgetting decision making.
African leaders must allow to be guided by science, rationality and the reality about the health challenges that young people face especially those related to their sexual reproductive health. For example that some political leaders, cultural and religious leaders are against sexuality education and condom distribution of condoms to young people, however much this may not be desired by any of these leaders but the cost of denying these to young people is way too expensive to ignore.
There is need to ensure that young people have access to PrEp and other relevant information and counseling that is non judgmental and stigmatizing in any way.
Champions were asked to ensure that the global commitments that different governments have made on the global level be domesticated and given the priority they deserve in terms of implementation. Some of these commitments referred included the Maputo plan of action, the ESA commitments as they have very critical objectives that address the health needs of young people.
This was followed by a session chaired BY HE Chissano on unpacking the specific vulnerabilities of adolescent girls and young women including men and their challenges in accessing HIV and health services which included the following;
Cross generational kind of relationships where they have less power to negotiate for condom use.
Poverty with most young people cannot afford to buy the medicines not leaving the fact that they cannot afford transport to the health facilities to get treatment.
Lack of age appropriate and accurate information about their sexual reproductive health and rights.
Same sex relationships that make them shy away from seeking treatment and other health services challenging because of the discrimination that comes with it.
Gender inequalities and gender-based violence prevent adolescent girls and young women from being able to protect themselves against HIV. Equally, adolescent girls and young women are often not able to access treatment.
This was closely followed by a session chaired by HE wandera Kazibwe the former vice president of the republic of Uganda on the key interventions for implementation at national and regional levels in order to improve the situation of young people, specifically targeting adolescent girls and young women in accessing HIV services.
This discussion also brought out the fact there is a huge youth bulge in the sub Saharan Africa.
There is need to have African solutions to the HIV challenges instead of leaving everything for the development partners which sometimes is always treated as a foreign agenda.
Our leaders need to have a kind of sustainability for the innervations and stop relaying on foreign funders who are sometimes are interested in driving the agenda
There is need to invest in the demographic dividend
Governments need to implement the commitments they have made at the global and regional level and the political statements.
There is need to emphasize good governance and accountability, in making sure that the different key players deliver on what they expected to deliver on
It was very vivid that the champions to deal with sexual violence that is still an issue in most of the African countries, and also trying to unpack the “RIGHTS” issue because it is still abstract to most African countries and this affects the lives of young people in most undesirable ways.
There is need to have friendly courts that can assist young people when they are raped or faced other forms of injustices.
In response to the above interventions the champions noted that they would like to do much but they are limited by scarcity of resources so that leaves their hands tired down.
Civil society organizations lack a common language, this leaves them with no such option but to duplicate with everybody doing the same things.
They also appreciated the fact that there is need to re capture the attention of the health workers.
Lastly they acknowledge that governments need to commit to supporting researches done b y African universities about the epidemic as they quest for the cure of HIV.
Then lastly was the Key interventions and innovations for expansion of testing for men, this presentation was made by Dr. Benedict Xaba from Botswana while the session was chaired by HE. Motlanthe former president of South Africa. In his presentation DR Benedict noted that men are still lagging behind in sub Saharan Africa in testing for HIV and he attributed this to the following reasons;
The long waiting hours at the health centers pushes them away since they consider that wastage of time due to other demanding responsibilities.
They fear being identified as they seek the services so they prefer that they spouses get tested and they consider the HIV status of their spouses to be similar to theirs.
The men prefer traditional healers for health solutions to the medical health practitioners.
Long distances to the health centers.
Unfriendly VCT clinics especially the fact they these clinics are always open at the awkward hours when these men are at work and by the time they return have already closed.
Lack of community involvement, where by most African services/ interventions are donor driven.
There is need to deal with men from villages and towns, most interventions target those in the villages with an assumptions that the ones in urban areas are more exposed hence they are aware yet they are in most times battling with similar challenges.
He also provided the following innovations that can help in motivating men to test more regularly for HIV;
The one day meeting was concluded by group photos and a site visit to the model youth friendly centre in Mozambique known as the dreams. Dreams is a project funded by PEPFAR with over six centres in Mozambique. These centers focus on testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Thecentre that receives a minimum of about 10000 patients on a daily basis provides nutritional information on top of youth friendly services. The challenges they face as they do are not any different from the challenges faced by most health centres in Africa, but they focus on finding solutions that enable them to keep delivering for the young people.