[:en]Written by: Patrick Mwesigye, Founder/Team Leader Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum & Vice President Africa Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN)

Condom. Probably not a new word to you. More likely, it is a word you have heard several times. However, it still seems to make many of us uncomfortable. But what’s up with condoms?

The majority of us are most likely well informed that condoms can prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of HIV and STIs. But is that all? For me, these, as I call them, safety tools and gadgets can only be effective if they are used correctly and consistently.

Let me tell you my story:

One day I met a beautiful young lady at a meeting in Kampala and a few months down the road, we were in a relationship. When things got more serious between us, I encouraged her to go to an HIV testing center with me but she was reluctant. Since I did not know about her HIV status, we always used a condom. Finally one day, she told me that she had been tested for HIV in the past and her results had come out as positive. That moment I realized that a condom is a savior!

A few weeks ago, I attended the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2015) and there was one campaign that seemed to catch everyone’s attention, the #CONDOMIZE campaign. The #Condomize space in the youth pavilion was always full of people, dancing and having fun, learning about sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), playing SRHR tailored educative games while the #Condomize volunteers were busy giving out condoms.

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I was very curious to know who was behind such a mind-blowing campaign so I caught up with Adriad Gonzales, Creative Director for the #Condomize campaign. “Condomize is an attraction campaign: We want people, young and old, male or female, to come to us and walk away educated about condoms, and a commitment to #condomize and not #compromise,” notes Adriad

“What motivates us is the need to break stigma around condoms. We are aware that as a global campaign, #Condomize has to value cultural differences and behaviours. We try to attach the condom theme to something specific in each country. In South Africa, for example, we chose five animals as themes for the condoms: Lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and panther. These were used because people easily identify with them,” Adriad continues.

During the ICASA 2015 period alone, Adriad and her team distributed a total of 1.2 million condoms, 250.000 of which were female condoms.

Motivated by my personal experiences and the positive impact of the #Condomize campaign, I urge governments to re-brand the concept of condom use to meet the needs of the changing population – for both young and old. There seems to be a need for engaging people and making them realize how important condoms are for their health and wellbeing!

 

If you would like to connect with Patrick, feel free to contact him via email or Twitter:

Twitter: @patsea
Email: patsewa@gmail.com[:]

[:en]Written by: Tikhala Itaye, President of the AfriYAN Eastern and Southern Africa Region

ICASA 2015 has officially ended and I am still in awe of what I learned during the sessions about taking ownership in fast-tracking the end of AIDS by 2030. It will take joint efforts and collaboration, social development and effective sustainable solutions. As a young person, the next steps that lie ahead and how I can act on what I learned at the conference excite me.

Here are the most memorable lessons I was able to take home from ICASA 2015:

1. We need to collaborate, be strategic and focus on adolescent health rights

In order to fast-track the end of HIV and AIDS by 2030, we need to ensure that we are all collaborating together, from all walks of life – addressing particular human rights challenges from young people and key populations impacted by HIV.

To do so, we need to be strategic. Instead of only addressing young people, we need to package human rights language in a manner that communities themselves use and understand to know and act on their own rights.

Most importantly, our work needs to focus on adolescents’ health. What can we do to address the issue of consent laws that make it inaccessible for adolescents to receive HIV counselling and testing? In some countries in the region, young people still cannot receive treatment without parental consent if they are 12 years or younger.

2. Let’s talk about access to health services for all

Accessible and high quality health services need to accommodate all, especially those living with disabilities. Just as everyone else, they need to be protected from sexual violence and be empowered to stand up for their rights.

Especially in rural areas, there still exist many issues of dialogue with and inclusion of those living with disabilities. Also, rural areas lack access to quality healthcare and treatment, which means that governments need to prioritize these regions in our respective countries. If we scale up healthcare for everyone, disabilities or diseases that cause disabilities can be recognized early on and can be treated effectively.

3. Transformative leadership: the role of women in sustaining the AIDS response

As a young woman myself, I strongly believe in the concept of women’s leadership when it comes to acting on HIV and AIDS. During ICASA 2015 I participated in a session with Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, the first lady of South Africa and the UN Women’s high-level task force.

For me, it was inspiring to see influential women taking the lead in this agenda. They shared their experiences on Malawi, which recently passed a bill that protects young girls from forced marriages, one of the greatest challenges in eradicating HIV and AIDS. In order to eliminate child marriage, it is crucial to mobilize community and traditional leaders in the fight against HIV.

The importance of social media in addressing child marriage was one of the key points during the session: it is an innovative way to bridge the gap in communicating between leaders and young people. Anna, a young person on the panel, who shared her sentiments of using innovative methods to communicate with young people particularly moved me. “Stop business as usual and adopt business unusual,” she stated.

I left this discussion and the other sessions with many solutions of how sustainable and long term solutions can be put into place to not only guide young women but all adolescents to receive guidance and continuous support to fulfil their potential. Time to act now![:]

[:en]Written by: Taban Robert Aggrey

This December, South Sudan marks the anniversary of a tremendous step forward in empowering adolescents and young women: the Girl Child Education Law in Central Equatoria. It enacts the prohibition of early and forced marriage and promotes girls’ education in the state.

The Governor of the state, Clement Wani Konga before a crowd who gathered to witness, signed the bill in December 2014.

Konga assured that, the state leadership is committed in implementing and achieving all the necessities which improve the girl education in these counties.

“Wrongdoers who will either marry or impregnate school girls shall be disciplined according to this law,” he warned.

In rural counties of the state, girl enrolment in schools is as low as 1000 to 1100. Many young girls are kept in their families’ houses or married off very young, dedicating their lives to domestic chores instead of a school education. The fragile security situation and frequent sexual assaults remain further major barriers for young girls to access adequate education.

“Early forced marriage is one of the most rampant forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in South Sudan, seriously affecting the development and stability of the young nation. From now on, forcibly marrying a girl is against the law of Central Equatoria,” explains Apai Mary Ayiga, the State Minister of Gender and Social Development.

“We in Central Equatoria have attained our long awaited dream of improving girl education across the counties,” said Konga.

“The law we have endorsed last December demonstrates our hard work towards getting equal participation of girls and boys in the education sector.”

Kong finishes by saying: “All girls must be allowed to acquire their basic right to go to school at all levels of education ranging from pre-primary to university level.”[:]

[:en]In many religious communities, the issue of addressing sex and sexuality among young people is a taboo. Many religious leaders and communities have developed significant stigma leading to a deafening silence around issues of sexuality. This makes adolescents more vulnerable to HIV infections and other sexual and reproductive health challenges.

In order to protect themselves, it is crucial that young people access sexuality education and information in both school settings and the community – among parents, community leaders and faith-based institutions. If young people are receiving the same accurate information about their sexuality, it enables them to protect themselves from HIV infections and make other safe decisions so they can live healthier lives.

Engaging parents and communities in the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education programs is a critical factor for success. UNESCO, INERELA+ and Save the Children came together for a participatory capacity building workshop in early November 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to open the dialogue for religious leaders, young people and parents on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).

The workshop aimed to build capacity of religious leaders, parents and young people in talking to other young people about their sexual and reproductive health rights. It also allowed for collaboration across 10 different countries in the region in the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education in and out of school.

“By the end of the workshop I was informed, educated and, most of all, empowered on matters related to CSE,” said Benson Kanyi Wairimu, a young person from Kenya. “I got to understand why we young people are of importance in our homes, churches and the community at large. As a young person, I will put into action what I have learnt during the workshop and educate my peers with the correct information,” he continued.

Ms. Judith speaking in the workshop

Mrs. Judith speaking in the workshop

“As parents, we appreciate the content covered, the empowerment, patience and empathy seen this week,” said Mrs. Judith Mthupha, a parent who participated in the workshop. “We are now aware of the responsibility we have as parents in reaching out to young people about comprehensive sexuality education.”

Reverend Phumzile Mabizela speaks on the importance of comprehensive sexuality education

Reverend Phumzile Mabizela speaks on the importance of comprehensive sexuality education

“This week has acted as a foundation for religious leaders. Only now have we begun to develop a positive language to reach young people with accurate information about their sexuality,” said Reverend Phumzile Mabizela, Executive Director of INERELA+, in her closing speech to participants. “Open the doors so that young people can talk to you.”

Last week’s workshop compliments a series of events addressing the importance of religious leaders, parents and young people, who are all taking part in how we can better protect our young people through life-saving information and interventions.

The collective goal is to ensure that religious leaders, parents and young people are jointly engaging and championing comprehensive sexuality education. This enables young people to understand their sexual and reproductive health rights and link with services without fear of judgement.

Dr. Patricia Machawira, UNESCO, presenting at the workshop

Dr. Patricia Machawira, UNESCO, presenting at the workshop

“Investments in sexuality education in schools is not enough. We need to also engage with religious leaders, parents and the community at large,” concluded Dr. Patricia Machawira, Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor with UNESCO.

“This is a realisation we are serious about so that we can complement the work we are doing in schools. These meetings are just the beginning of what will be fruitful partnerships.”

Want to see all the photos from the event? Click here

 

“This week has acted as a foundation for religious leaders. Only now have we begun to develop a positive language to reach young people with accurate information about their #sexuality. Open the doors so that young people can talk to you.” – Reverend Phumzile Mabizela, Executive Director of INERELA+

In religious communities, the issue of addressing sex and sexuality among children can often be taboo. Many religious leaders and communities have developed significant #stigma leading to a deafening silence around issues of #sexuality. We had a workshop with parents, religious leaders and young people in #Johannesburg to discuss how comprehensive sexuality education can be delivered through parents and religious groups. See more here! www.youngpeople.net/en/sensitization-and-capacity-building-on-comprehensive-sexuality-education-for-parents-and-religious-leaders-2 #religion #christian #muslim #sexualityeducation #HIVprevention #youngpeople[:]

[:en]Written by: Patrick Mwesigye, AfriYAN ESA Vice President

About 100 plus vibrant, energetic and enthusiastic young people from across the African continent, gathered at the ICASA 2015 Youth Pre-Conference in Harare – Zimbabwe last week from the 27th to 28th of November 2015. In one particular session, young people were exposed to the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) Commitment, which was endorsed by our Ministers of Education and Health across the region in December 2013.

Learn more about the ESA Commitment here

We know that successful implementation and achievement of the ESA commitments targets must see young people at the center of planning, implementation and monitoring.  But where do we begin?

As a partner in the ESA Commitment, the African Youth and Adolescent Network (AfriYAN) hosted a focused session on how we as young people need to come up with a plan for holding governments accountable, especially as we move into the end of year 2015 targets. We also know that in July 2016, our governments will be convening to discuss progress two years on.

AfriYAN Members at ICASA

AfriYAN members at the Pre-Youth Conference

This is our opportunity as young people to make meaningful contributions.

This is one of my passions – there is real power to youth-led accountability. You may be asking: well Patrick, what does this mean? It’s ensuring that our governments, such as mine in Uganda, act on what they promised – it’s as simple as that. However, we know government cannot do this without the collaboration amongst various ministries and partners, including (and most importantly) the young people they serve.

Presentation at pre-youth conference

Tikhala Itaye speaking on accountability

Our participation and ACTION will contribute to making sure targets from the ESA Commitment are achieved. But how do we act?

We held a group work session where young people called for increased knowledge on accountability issues in order to have sufficient skills and knowledge to engage in the accountability processes at country level. Through our group work, we sighted out some actions that we want to engage in moving forward, including:

  • Conducting surveys on young people’s thoughts on the quality of CSE and their ratings of youth-friendly health services in their communities. This is so we can have clear evidence where there may be gaps, challenges or successes that can then be presented to government.
  • Running a social media accountability campaign on sexual and reproductive health issues – finding out what young people are saying online about their rights in sexual health facilities;
  • Organizing dialogues and town hall meetings with leaders; and
  • Signing petitions, among others.

This has begun great discussion among young people on a concrete plan of ACTION across Eastern and Southern Africa.  The time to act is NOW.

Are you ready to act as a youth-led organization or young person? We will be posting a full action plan on this website shortly – please make sure to check back very soon![:]

[:en]We’re excited to host young guest bloggers to the Young People Today site! What better time to launch these guest bloggers than during the largest AIDS conference in Africa? You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections. They will keep you updated on the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) this week.

Stay tuned for their stories!

 Patrick, Young Person and Guest Blogger
Patrick Mwesigye, from Uganda

Patrick is the founder and team leader at the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum, which is a youth-led and youth-serving organization that advocates from health, gender, and livelihood needs of young people. He is a passionate youth activist that has been involved with many aspects of the YPT Campaign, including holding decision makers accountable for their commitments. Patrick is also involved with a variety of other projects and organizations including AfriYAN and Have you seen my rights Coalition.

 

 

 

 

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Tikhala Itaye, from Namibia

A 26 year old young women, born Malawian and residing in Namibia. President of the Eastern and Southern African region of AfriYAN, co-founder of Her Liberty Namibia, Executive producer of a TV drama series on HIV and GBV among young people entitled “Don’t kiss and Tell” and Regional Think Tank Social Justice member. She is vibrant, bold and always pursuing to infiltrate positive change in communities.

 

 

 

 

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Gogontlejang Phaladi, from Botswana

Phaladi is the youngest citizen to have established and registered a Charitable Organization (At 5 years old). She is a philanthropist, motivational Speaker, human rights advocate, writer, poet, and UN Campaign Facilitator as a youth ambassador. She is the Director of the Gogontlejang Phaladi of Hope Project (GPPHP), member of Vision 2036 Presidential Task Team and part of the African Union High Level Advisory Group on Humanitarian Effectiveness in Africa. She is also currently a student at the University of Botswana.

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[:en]You’ve probably heard the buzz – UNAIDS has launched a global initiative to scale up HIV testing among young people – the 90-90-90 initiative. But what does this mean? This means by 2020, we need to work towards having:

  1. 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. According to UNAIDS, unfortunately only an estimated 45% of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa know their status. This is not nearly enough. By knowing your status, young people can access appropriate treatment to manage the virus and obtain safer practices to prevent it from spreading to others.
  1. 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infections will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. With high treatment coverage levels, individuals testing positive for HIV will need to have access to appropriate treatment and counseling. As part of this initiative, countries will need to have more accessible HIV treatment and care, such as diagnostic tests and other treatment-related items. Making it free to individuals will help encourage young people to ensure they have the adequate treatment.
  1. 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. This means having less of the HIV virus particles in your blood. HIV Antiviral treatment helps control and decrease these levels so you are living healthily with the virus. To do this, you must take your treatment and go to the clinic regularly to ensure you are monitoring it safely. Part of this target will include ensuring clinics and health facilities will have improved access to viral load testing technologies and eliminate barriers that could stop a young person from getting access to treatment such as cost, stigma, age constraints and geographical distance.

 Aligning with the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) Commitment, these ambitious targets on HIV treatment is part of a global strategy to fast track the end of the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Do you know your own status?

To learn more about the initiative go to: http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/90-90-90_en_0.pdf[:]

[:en]Today on December 1st, we mark World Aids Day. Every year this day is aimed at raising awareness around HIV and AIDS. Young people age 10-24 are especially vulnerable to the HIV epidemic – with 430,000 new infections happening every year in Eastern and Southern Africa. According to UNAIDS and the African Union, the HIV prevalence of young women in sub-Saharan Africa is three times higher than that of their male counterparts while only 15% of young women aged 15-24 are aware of their HIV status.

In order to specifically address the underlying structural gender inequality drivers that exacerbate young women’s and girls’ vulnerability in particular, UNAIDS and the African Union developed five recommendations (learn more in a comprehensive report here):

  1. Women’s agency, participation and leadership is crucialPeerMentor-teaching sex
  1. Strategies to reduce intimate partner violence to reduce vulnerability to HIV12December-Photo
  2. Scaling up social protection and cash transfers to reduce poverty and girls’ vulnerability to HIV11November-Photo
  1. Strategies to keep girls in school and comprehensive sexuality educationMamohau Thetsane, 12. Lesotho High School. Young Positive Generation workshop with Ntsoaki Sehloho.PHOTO: TOBY SELANDER
  1. Scaling up integrating HIV with sexual and reproductive health servicesshutterstock_221882842

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