Backstage at the opening ceremony of AIDS 2018

Call for action: AIDS 2018 Youth Pre-Conference

Our call for action asks community activists, civil society partners, technical agencies, donors and governments to support young people to engage in the HIV response.
14 Dec 2018

In the lead up to the 2018 International AIDS Conference, a vibrant coalition of young people from around the world convened as a part of the youth pre-conference, organised by Amsterdam Youth Force and Y+. This is the largest consolidated youth presence at any HIV conference in the history of the epidemic.

The aim of the youth pre-conference was to ensure meaningful youth participation at AIDS 2018 and amplify the voices of young people present at the conference. This collaboration of youth networks made it evident that:

  • We are passionate, motivated, determined, engaged, capable and eager to learn
  • We have opinions and they matter
  • We have the power to reach our peers
  • We have insider knowledge – who better to represent us than us?
  • We are resourceful and know how to use technology to advance our goals
  • We are diverse – one size doesn’t fit all.

We are the experts on our own issues but we cannot do it on our own. With HIV incidence among young people on the rise – approximately sixty-two thousand young people newly acquire HIV every year – AIDS is still the second leading cause of death among young people worldwide. Marginalised groups are still facing stigma and discrimination and being denied their rights.

There is a growing sense of urgency to invest resources in adolescents, and particularly adolescent girls and young women. If we want to be the generation to end AIDS, we must meaningfully engage to claim our sexual and reproductive health and rights, own our sexuality, and demand our right to make choices over what we need and want for ourselves.

Three challenges facing young people

Currently, three main challenges hold us back from reaching our full potential:

1. Young peoples’ voices not being heard

We are not systematically and meaningfully included in the HIV response. Even if young people are included in a panel, organisation or event, this does not mean their voices are being heard. In order for young people to be able to meaningful participate, they need consistent, accurate information, capacity enhancement, freedom of choice, platforms for their voices, responsibility and decision-making power. Without these things, youth participation is often tokenistic.

2. Financial means

There is a lack of investment in our youth structures and organisations. Youth-led organisations working in the field of HIV need access to core resources to survive and effectively run programmes.

3. Restrictive structures and policies

At every level – from community to global level – there are structures and policies that limit our access and ability to engage in service delivery and advocacy because of age, gender, disability, sexual orientation and more.

Our call to action

We ask community activists, civil society partners, technical agencies, donors and governments to:

  • Create opportunities and really champion meaningful youth participation in all formal and informal decision-making structures where important decisions about the lives of young people are made
  • Fund young people to start and run their organisations or projects
  • Pay young people for the work we do, at the same rate as older people are remunerated
  • When involving young people, provide us with the financial means to participate. This includes for instance paying for our training, material, travel expenses, accommodation, and meals, so we can fully contribute and realise our potential to social, health and development goals
  • Remember all the time that young people are not just people who receive services, we are also leaders and agents of political, social and legal change
  • Use accessible language and communication channels that enable us to meaningfully participate in policy-making processes and structures
  • Steer collaborative efforts for and related to social norms, laws and policies involving our concerns as young people at various levels and across fields
  • Help us grow professionally: ask us what skills we need to reach our goals and help us build those skills.

These are our asks.

What can you commit to?