[: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![:]