Y+ petitions UNICEF and UNAIDS at AIDS 2014

At the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, young people living with HIV (YPLHIV) from all over the world and representing the Global Network of YPLHIV (Y+) came together to discuss our common needs and priorities within the conference and for the positive youth movement in the HIV response. We shared the challenges that surround our access to full health and wellbeing, including access to optimal HIV treatment and related care and support in our respective countries.

After sharing experiences of  forced sterilization, disclosure, and testing; lack of contraceptive options; high pill burden;  lack of access to second and third line regimens; lack of access to management and treatment of opportunistic infections and ARV-related side effects; long distances to ART clinics; lack of support to disclose and adhere to treatment; stigma and discrimination; and school and workplace stigma and discrimination, we felt it was time to request dialogue with relevant decision-makers in the AIDS response, who were also present at the conference.

We attended, participated in, and were involved in various AIDS 2014 discussions, sessions, and panels where ambitious strategies to achieve the ends of AIDS (such as the “90:90:90” targets and the “All in” campaign) were shared. We celebrate the willingness of those initiatives, but we are seriously concerned that these plans to do include the meaningful involvement of young people living with HIV—our voices, our needs, and our passion to live in a world in which we lead healthy, dignified, and meaningful lives.

Decision-makers have failed to recognize our individual needs as adolescents and young people living with HIV, and our specific needs are not well-articulated in some of the ambitious strategies to end AIDS by 2030.  At AIDS 2014, we asked for the recognition of our sexual and reproductive health and rights, optimal treatment (one pill) regimens, integrated HIV and SRH services, the right to education and employment, and finally, we asked for reforms in punitive policies and laws that impede our access to the services we need.

Alongside other young people at the IAC Youth Pre-Conference, we helped draft the 2014 Youth Action Plan, the youth outcome document of the conference. This action plan centered upon four themes: Treat, Love, Educate. and Reform. Among other asks, it demanded HIV treatment for all. Young people asked for universal access to affordable HIV drugs, achievable only through the removal of restrictive trade policies and fairer distribution of resources globally.

At the “Honey; We Have Forgotten About the Adolescents” session in the ITPC Global treatment Networking zone,  a Y+/Adolescent HIV Treatment Coalition-organized event, YPLHIV engaged with Dr. Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS. Here we had chance to share our treatment and health needs as adolescents and young people living with HIV. As this conversation is a long one,, Y+ asked Dr. Loures  for a  formal meeting to best explain  our needs, and discuss strategies for addressing them.

Following several events led by young people living with HIV and collaborated on with Craig McClure, Chief of HIV/AIDS at UNICEF, we requested that UNICEF meet with us as well. One of these such sessions, a panel co-organized with the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, was led and moderated completely by young people living with and affected by HIV. UNAIDS and UNICEF both honored our request  for a formal meeting, in which we petitioned them (among other decision-makers) to ensure clear targets specific to adolescents and young people living with HIV are included in the 90/90/90 campaign and the “All in” initiatives.

 We asked for both and future initiatives to ensure that  all adolescents and young people know their HIV status, all young people who test positive are enrolled on optimal HIV treatment with 100% retention in care, and all young people achieve 100 % viral suppression.

We asked UNICEF and UNAIDS to meaningfully collaborate with Y+ in the drafting, planning, and implementation of these ambitious initiatives, so that all young people, especially adolescents and YPLHIV, have access to optimal HIV prevention, treatment and related care for the end of AIDS.