Condom use demonstrations, youths in school uniform, panelists sharing their first time taking an HIV test as young people, honest and frank questions and answers. That was the tone of our very exciting and interactive session, with the title “Tides of Change: Empowering the Youth for HIV Prevention”, yesterday afternoon (at the Youth Pavilion in the Community Village at the 18th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa.
“Less than 15% of people who test for HIV are men – including young men”, said Remmy Shawa, manager of Sonke’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights portfolio.
This means “there is a great need to support young men to access health services in order to establish their HIV status”, Shawa added.
“Young girls continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV and, thus, they need to be at the forefront of the HIV response”, said Nyasha Sithole of My Age Zimbabwe.
“We need to empower the girl child to address susceptibility to transactional and inter-generational sex”, she said.
Itumeleng Komanyane, manager of the International Programmes and Networks unit, which manages the work of the MenEngage Africa alliance, agreed and added that while interventions to address the issue of transactional sex amongst young women is important, these efforts “should also focus on boys as they are becoming increasingly susceptible to engage in transactional and inter-generational sex”.
“Over 60% of the population in Africa consists of the youth. Thus, it is important to reach out to the youth in new and innovative ways, most notably social media platforms, to attract their attention to issues of HIV”, concluded My Age’s Nyasha Sithole.