By Nicholas Niwagaba, Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV & AIDS (UNYPA) Executive Director
In Uganda, young people in all their diversity are actively involved and leading in policy decision-making. The Ugandan Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA), where I am Executive Director, has been journeying with GNP+ through the Bridging the Gaps (BtG) programme and invested in equipping young people with advocacy skills to effectively participate in key policy meetings and processes in Uganda, aimed at ensuring the specific needs of young people living with HIV are recognised and addressed.
Young people and adolescents (10 to 24 year olds), especially young women and young people among key populations (sex workers, people who use drugs, transgender people and men who have sex with men), continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. Currently, over 30% of all new HIV infections globally are estimated to occur among young people aged 15 to 25 years. This is twice as high among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) and among young people from key populations. This points to the need to increase the meaningful engagement and involvement of young people in defining and designing programs aimed at improving their health.
This year has been an active one for UNYPA youth advocates. With the support of all our partners, including BtG, we have:
- engaged in the review of the new National Guidelines for Psychosocial Care and Support. These guidelines prioritise young people to ensure that they are supported in disclosure, adherence to treatment, proper mental health management, viral load suppression, and access to Dolutegravir (DTG) regimen for women and girls living with HIV of reproductive age.
- pushed for the roll-out of Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) with a new approach to improve youth friendliness of the services through the Youth & Adolescent Peer (YAPS) model, which is currently implemented under a pilot in 10 districts to be scaled up to 45 districts in Uganda by the Ministry of Health, in partnership with health facilities and our young peers.
- participated in the PEPFAR COP19 regional planning meeting to discuss the country strategy, priorities and budget for the following year as well as set targets on implementing country operation plans (COPs) to improve the response to HIV. At the meeting, the youth representatives pushed for specific interventions and budget lines for AGYW. This included an increase in allocation for national HIV prevention programming and including the Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) model that secured funding for scaling up the pilot to an additional 30 districts in Uganda to improve ART enrolment, retention and viral load suppression among young people.
- participated at the AIDS 2018 conference in Amsterdam where we shared our experience of the The Y+ Beauty Pageant for the Fast forward Award and won the Golden Egg Award with a seed grant of € 2,000 for scaling up the work. This has increased visibility of the campaign, organisation and reach of our programming.
UNYPA have mobilised support from partners domestically and internationally along with GNP+ and other partners to strengthen our network and programming to service young people living with HIV, and in particular to push for quality services. The Bridging the Gaps support from GNP+ has contributed to equipping young people with the effective advocacy skills so we can speak up and speak out on issues that matter to us.
Young people are actively involved and leading the advocacy in Uganda and creating impact for young people.