12 August 2022 International Youth Day — Globally, almost half of countries do not involve young people in policy making or strategies related to their health, UNAIDS data shows. Today, the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global) and the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) announce the creation of their Young Emerging Leaders (YEL) program, to build an elite squad of young advocates to engage and influence global policy and health governance spaces.
The work is the latest initiative from the civil society coalition, the Love Alliance.
Every day, 1,110 young people between the ages of 15 and 24, become newly infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS’ latest global AIDS update, entitled “In Danger.” In 2021, a young woman or adolescent girl contracted HIV every two minutes. AIDS-related illnesses remain a leading cause of death among young girls and women aged 15 to 29. Meanwhile, young people who are sex workers, use drugs or are transgender — as well as gay men and other men who have sex with men — also remain at high risk of infection. They also remain underserved by traditional HIV care and treatment services.
For almost four decades, young people have fought to become HIV advocates, peer educators, service providers and even researchers. They have struggled — often without resources — to ensure young people are at the centre of policies, programmes and funding to address their needs.
Still, young advocates remain poorly represented in local and international decision-making platforms. In a 16-country survey by the youth coalition Young Pact, nearly 70% still do not include young people in Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs) that decide funding, for example.
“Young people from key populations remain under-represented at almost all levels of decision-making spaces that impact our health and rights,” says Tinashe Rufurwadzo, Y+ Global Director of Programmes, Management and Governance. “Now more than ever, the world needs the leadership of young advocates to ethically and meaningfully engage and represent us in the policy dialogue and health governance spaces.”
Today on International Youth Day, Y+ Global and GNP+ announce the creation of their YEL program, to strengthen the representation of young people on global platforms, such as the United Nations General Assembly, World Health Organization and the Global Fund.
The YEL program is being implemented by Y+ Global and GNP+ with initial funding from the Dutch-funded Love Alliance program. This program will collaborate with Love Alliance member organizations to create a strong team of 15 YEL advocates primarily from the Love Alliance countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Burundi and Burkina Faso. A few positions will be available for advocates outside of Africa, specifically from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. The program is open to advocates 25 years and younger.
“Increasing the representation of young people within the global HIV response is challenging,” explains Love Alliance Program Officer, Aline Fantinatti. “Many young advocates struggle to gain the technical expertise and confidence to engage in important platforms meaningfully. Those that do, are often overstretched and often unrealistically expected to represent the diversity of young peoples’ voices.”
Fantinatti continues: “The YEL program aims to fill that gap deliberately and sustainably.”
YEL advocates will access specially tailored online learning modules, covering areas such as HIV treatment, funding flows and public advocacy. YEL advocates will also meet monthly in “Moments of Truth” peer-to-peer learning sessions. In these meetings, advocates will share challenges, solutions and lessons learned from their own work.
Advocates will be paired with Community Advocacy Technical Experts (CATEs) for one-on-one, hands-on coaching. Our specially selected community advocacy experts will not only provide individual coaching to participants but will work to facilitate YEL advocates’ access to national or regional meetings and other spaces.
The YEL programme’s inaugural class will run until December 2023, when they will participate in a graduation ceremony and retreat at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). Graduates will become coaches to the next generation of YEL advocates.
“Effective advocacy depends on strong and vibrant advocates who have the capacity, resources, support, and motivation from their communities, to show up, engage and represent,” GNP+ Programme Manager Florence Anam, said. “The YEL program will help grow an elite squad of advocates to do just that.”
For more information, contact:
Tinashe Rufurwadzo, Y+ Global Director of Programmes, Management & Governance / firstname.lastname@example.org
Florence Anam, GNP+ Programme Manager / email@example.com