Youth given a voice at the AIDS Conference

Pretoria – The fourth day of the 21st International AIDS Conference afforded young people a platform to share their experiences, challenges and opinions with prominent activists, the world’s top scientists, researchers and policy makers.

The Aids conference is taking place at the ICC in Durban this week.

The highlight of the day focused on addressing the role of youth as a game changer towards an HIV free generation.

In a session titled “Ending HIV with the voices of the youth”, prominent activists including Sir Elton John and Prince Harry called on the global community to give a voice to young people and prioritise empowerment of the adolescents.

Young people were also encouraged to actively participate in various programme aiming to fight HIV and AIDS.

The session addressed the HIV epidemic among adolescents with a particular emphasis on how stigma and discrimination have negatively impacted young people.

A panel, comprising youth from different countries, gave their views on what could work to address the needs of the youth infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

Some studies presented at the conference, estimated that two million adolescents are living with HIV worldwide and that Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit. Researchers also emphasised that HIV remains the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa and second in the globe.

Other sessions highlighted that the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among women in the region are higher than anywhere else in the world.

Studies indicated that without concerted efforts to address the epidemic among adolescents, particularly young women, winning the battle against HIV and AIDS pandemic will be impossible.

South Africa has the highest rate of infections among girls and young women. It was for this reason that government recently launched a three-year national HIV prevention campaign that aims to address this unacceptable reality.

Young people are at heightened risk of HIV as they are exposed to HIV risk factors such as poverty, lack of access to health services, sexual education, HIV information and increased risk of sexual exploitation.

Government called on members of communities to join hands and play a pivotal part in empowering young people with education, business and employment opportunities.

The conference will wrap up on Friday, with Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, delivering a closing address on behalf of South Africa.

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