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.
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:
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.