Youth Declaration

AIDS 2022


     The Youth Force Declaration is an advocacy position statement co-created by young activists and youth- and adolescent-led and serving organizations with messaging on meaningful youth and adolescent engagement, the diversity of young people around the world and youth-focused recommendations to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic with a focus on leveraging youth networks and communitise as part of the global response.
    From our work overt he past months and presentation at the 2022 IAS Conference in Montréal, we continue these efforts and call on activists, organizations, and allies to sign the Declaration to drive youth-led and community-centred mobilization and demand action from national and international governments, healthcare service providers and other decision makers.
     Montreal Youth Force 2022, comprised of youth in our diversity from around the world, are calling on all stakeholders to recognize that young people deserve a seat at the table when decisions affect our lives. We need meaningful participation at all stages and levels of policy-making processes.
     As young people, we need to be able to make informed decisions about our sexuality and health. To make these choices, we need access to quality services and information. This includes access to HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention, sexual and reproductive health services, mental health support, and harm reduction for people who use drugs. 
     The HIV response is a human rights response. We demand justice to end stigma and discrimination. Human rights and gender equality need to be at the centre of the HIV and AIDS response. Ending stigma and discrimination, ensuring shelter and access to nutrition, as well as mental health and harm reduction services all make up key aspects of HIV prevention for young people, and are also interventions that support adherence to treatment for young people living with HIV. We, as young people, are a diverse group with varying needs. Some of the needs of adolescent girls and young women differ from those  of young transgender people, which also  differ from some of the needs of young people who use drugs. However, the intersections of identity and barriers must be recognised, and youth-led responses supported to better respond to our diverse needs.
     We underline UNAIDS’ call to End Inequalities, End AIDS, End pandemics!
     Economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities must be urgently ended if we are to eradicate AIDS by 2030. Political, economic and social rules must protect the rights of all, and lend an ear to the needs of communities disadvantaged and marginalized.We call on States to end criminal prosecution of people living with HIV noting the disproportionate effects of criminalization on key population groups and other marginalised peoples across the world.

Youth Declaration

(Read Below)

     We, young people from around the world, come together as a diverse and unified force, believing in the power of young people’s voices to contribute to and influence change in the global HIV response. We are concerned that dual pandemics, geopolitical conflicts, natural disasters and existing inequalities have reversed the progress made in meeting the sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV needs of young people in all our diversity. We recognize that the world is making significant progress toward ending AIDS; globally, almost 28.2 million people out of 37.7 million people living with HIV are on treatment. However, we cannot ignore the fact that AIDS-related illnesses are still the second leading cause of death amongst adolescents. Simultaneously, adolescents living with HIV experience worse outcomes along the cascade of care compared to both children and adults concerning linkage and retention in care, adherence to medication, and achievement and sustainment of viral load suppression.   1,100 young people are newly infected with HIV daily. It is with hope and a strong sense of urgency that we call upon governments, intergovernmental agencies, civil society, academia, private sector partners, donors, and UN agencies to act on the following recommendations:

  1. Meaningfully and ethically engage young people, in our diversity as equal decision-making partners on matters that affect our health and rights inclusive of priority setting, implementation, and evaluation and across the humanitarian-to-development continuum, including: 
         - Proactive inclusion and participation to prevent future barriers such as inequitable rejections and untimately acceptance of visas for future conferences, and;
        - Create and sustain systemic support for meaningful youth engagement through capacity building, funding, investment, and opportunity.
  2. Recognize the diverse needs of adolescent and youth population groups, including key populations, adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), adolescent boys and young men, adolescent and young trans and gender non-conforming individuals, pregnant and young mothers, adolescents and youth with disabilities, young internally displaced individuals and those in and out of school, etc., to certify that investment, programs, and resources address and are responsive to their unique needs.
        - Facilitate access and utilization of disaggregated data for adolescent and youth populations to more accurately respond to distinct challenges 
  3. Adopt anti-discrimination laws and policies and implement existing policies to protect young people from stigma and discrimination based on HIV status, race and ethicity, sexual activity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). Additionally, repeal laws with disproportionate impacts on people living with and affected by HIV including:
        - Laws criminalizing HIV transmission, sex work, use of drugs, and SOGIESC;
        - Laws, such as age of consent laws, which bar access to comprehensive health services; as well as laws requiring sexual partners to accompany patients seeking HIV/AIDS testing and treatment as a prerequisite to receiving services, and, 
        - Migration policies that discriminate based on HIV status among migrants, refugees and non-citizens.
  4. Recognize, invest, and integrate psychosocial support and mental health care within HIV service delivery, with specific resourcing to peer-driven approaches by youth-led and community-based entities.
        - Prioritize sustainable responsive health services, such as youth friendly services, that are comprehensive in offerings for adolescent and youth needs that are intrinsically tied to the community
  5. Recognize, invest in, and ensure equitable access to existing and new HIV prevention methods, to advance young people’s autonomy and choice, which includes:
        - Specific attention to adolescent girls and young women;
        - Integrating and scaling up the provision of responsive PrEP approaches attuned to the needs of various young populations; 
        - Fostering gender inclusivity through engagement and allyship to advance gender equality and reproductive rights; and,
        - Ensuring access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) whether delivered in school or non-formal settings, including capacity building of teachers and practitioners as main deliverers of CSE.
  6. Expand information that is accessible, contextualized, and translated for all adolescents and youth on undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U) and resource youth-led and youth-serving organizations to conduct outreach to reduce stigma, improve the quality of life of young people living with HIV, and tackle barriers to comprehensive care.
        - Recognize the harms of stigma and discrimination occurring at the facility-, peer-, community-, and school- level affecting self worth and prioritize investments in promising practicing to address stigma and build responsive and enabling communities. 
  7. Commit to enabling environments and systems to facilitate partnerships with youth-led and serving organizations to end all inequities  through a human rights approach to eliminate harmful practices that continue to marginalize adolescents and young people, including those in key and left-behind populations and those affected by HIV: 
        - Addressing and advocating against harmful cultural practices and norms; attitudes; non-responsive environments and policies that reduce access, quality, uptake, and satisfaction of services and support, including in schools.
  8. Ensure robust preparedness and innovation in all current and future pandemics and emergencies to proactively address disruptions and ensure ongoing access, availability, affordability, and distribution of essential services, resources, and treatment for adolescent and youth populations, including: 
        - Securing equitable access to pandemic health tools and technologies by promoting alternative research and development models, voluntary licensing agreements, and comprehensive technology transfers; and,
        - Supporting and implementing adaptive models of development which center young people’s agency and innovation in leading the HIV response.
  9. Ensure access to technology for young people to reduce the digital divide and adapt, integrate, and prioritize digital health into existing systems, including development, health, and humanitarian responses, in a way that upholds and protects their human rights.

     These recommendations can only be achieved if there is increased political commitment, sustainable investments, and support to expand shrinking civic spaces to protect advocates, human rights defenders and civil society at large. We also kindly remind all stakeholders of the Joint Youth Statement on the 2021 Political Declaration shared at the UN High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS and urgently demand calls for the substantive financing and recognition of comprehensive sexual education, harm reduction policies, and sexual and reproductive health and rights as fundamental to the global HIV/AIDS response. The recommendations outlined in this document, in addition to the continued collaboration and support of global young leaders, civil society organizations, and youth allies, will facilitate progress towards achieving the global HIV/AIDS goals.

    The organizations, entities, and individuals who have endorsed this declaration recognize and fully support its contents and commit to applying the principles, integrating the priorities, and enacting the recommendations outlined.

Co-authors: Cosima Lenz, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF); Erika Dupuis, The PACT; Joseph Kabwe Phiri, Youth movement for HIV/AIDS free Zambia (YMHAZ); Nyasha Phanisa Sithole, Development Agenda for Girls and Women in Africa Network (DAWA); Ryan Yevcak, Youth Coalition; Tinashe Grateful Rufurwadzo, Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global); and, Tumie Komanyane, READY (Frontline AIDS).

Co-contributors: Ali Raza Khan, Hi Voices; Asha Ulusow, LetsStopAIDS; Bwire Moses, Peer To Peer Uganda (PEERU); Daren Paul Katigbak, Y+ Global; Fuhngwa Norbert, Georgetown Global Health and Denis Miki Foundation; Jake Atkinson and Molly Pugh-Jones, STOPAIDS; Joshua Oliyo, EGPAF; Kelvin Chifulumo and Princess Temwa Mukuka, Educating Girls and Young Women for Development (EGYD); Leo Villar, YouthLEAD; Maggy Gynèse Inamahoro, YAM-ABUBEF; Margaux Lessard, Centre action sida Montréal (CASM); Matsepo Dee Mphafi Tanka, EGPAF; Mickey Andweg, Hivos; Paul Darrel Meneses, International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF); and, Sophie Arseneault, ayKP Partnership.