Dandelion Kenya: On Youth Involvement In HIV Response In Kenya
Youth is a transient stage that embodies potential, promise, renewal, new frontiers, novel ideas, advancing the untested, identity exploration, self-focus and infinite possibilities. The same youth is also; rash, risk taking, experimental, self indulgent, unknowable, restless and boundary testing. Young people are dynamic in many ways and this dynamism is continuously threatened by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
According to UNAIDS statistics, In 2011, youth (15-24) accounted for 40% of all new global HIV infections, In 2011, there were an estimated five million youth living with HIV and some 2400 youth newly infected with HIV every day. Among the youth living with HIV, 78% live in sub-Saharan Africa with Asia and the Pacific recording second highest number of youth living with HIV, with an estimated 550 000 young people living with HIV, and some 110 000 youth newly infected with HIV. These numbers paint a picture that goes to show how youth are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.
If governments are to discuss development prospects in terms of infrastructure, technology and health without taking into account Sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV, we pose the risk of eroding development gains from losing young people to HIV/AIDS epidemic. For a long time, young people have been sidelined from decision making spheres. Governments should harness Young people’s strength in numbers, their unique capabilities and profound insight in the challenges they face, as well as the strategic networks and resources to contribute effectively. To help curb spread of HIV, governments should meaningfully involve the youth in the conceptualization, design, implementation and monitoring of health programs and policies at all levels. This can be enhanced through a data revolution and specifically calling for age disaggregated targets. This will result in increased investments that is informed on scientific data.
The wearer of the shoe knows where it pinches most.
Currently in Kenya our 2014/2015 budget allocation for health is 4.2% which is not even a third of the 15% stipulated in The Abuja Declaration. This means that HIV prevention funds will still rely heavily on donor funding. Young people should call for increased health budget allocation that will “Ensure universal access to quality-assured, comprehensive adolescent and youth friendly health services and information without user fees which include integrated sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. User fees prevent many young people from getting tested which is the first step towards getting to zero.
There are key populations of young people such as adolescents and most at risk populations whose needs continue to be sidelined by stringent laws and policies. LGBTI young people specifically are more predisposed to HIV/AIDS yet our laws are punitive and infringe on their human rights and sometimes if not most deny them access to health services.
Finally young advocates working with SRHR and HIV should ensure that comprehensive sexuality education curriculums and peer education curriculums are well translated and content delivered in a manner that is easy to understand for both adolescents who are in and out of school according to their evolving capacities. Comprehensive sexuality education is the best weapon we can use to sensitize our young people and adolescents on HIV prevention and all the harmful traditional practices and myths that continuously perpetuate the spread of HIV.
We are in this together and we have to ACT together!