Geneva, Switzerland. Hot off the press: Watipa, UNAIDS, and the PACT launch study today about the importance of youth participation in community responses to HIV. Watipa scholars were the researchers in this important project. Join the conversation and take part in the Facebook Live session that is happening now…
Ruben Pages Ramos, Youth Programmes Coordinator at UNAIDS, chats with Allen Kyendikuwa, sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate and Watipa Associate, about the results. Allen Kyendikuwa was one of the lead young researchers in the report launched today.
Ruben: Can you please share a bit more information about the objectives and results from the study, including some of the insights you received from the interviews?
Allen: The study aimed to assess young people’s participation in community HIV responses, specifically demand creation, linkages to care and uptake of HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights services. It also aimed to document and showcase models of youth participation in community HIV responses.
Ruben: Can you tell us about some of the main results?
Allen: The results indicated that young people play an essential role in demand creation, linkages to care and uptake of services for HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights. It enhances the overall response to HIV and benefits the young people themselves.
Young people play a critical part in enabling access to HIV treatment and retention in care.Young people are actively involved in peer psychosocial support, peer-to-peer consultations, policy engagement processes, peer mobilization around specific campaigns and projects, and peer-supported hospital and care access.
Young people, including young key populations and young people living with HIV, also play a key role in primary HIV prevention, early testing and diagnosis. Peer education, outreach and community engagement are all areas where young people are informing and influencing their peers.
Ruben: Did you learn anything that surprised you?
Allen: This research found that there is a perceived value in young people’s participation in all stages of programme and policy design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Despite this, young people are often seen as being passive in the process and participating onlyas beneficiaries; their role as implementers was either overlooked or taken for granted.
Increased attention has been given to the need to disaggregate data to reflect the diversity of young people and the important role they play in gathering data to inform nuanced policies.
Participants in the peer interviews also encouraged donors to resource the time and involvement of young people so that they could be paid for their role in service delivery and not only be considered as volunteers. Concrete suggestions were given to donors to provide core funding to enable organizations run by and for young people to have some funding sustainability and support in setting up governance and organizational structures to facilitate a stronger and more long-term engagement in the local HIV response.
Ruben: You have done a lot of work at the national level. Can you share a bit more how youth organizations and networks support young people’s health and rights?
Allen: They support in changing public perception that young people as seen as being the problem to being the solution. Importantly, they develop leadership potential and community engagement, support policy formulations that enable the involvement of young people, increase the peer to peer information sharing, improve access to services, and can drive consensus towards a common language that amplifies attention to issues relating to young people from international declarations at the national level.
Ruben: What is your message to donors, policy makers and UN entities, on how they can support youth organizations and networks working on HIV?
Allen: It is important to enable opportunities for the participation of young people from a variety of backgrounds (including rural communities) in community-based responses. Project discussion fora, youth-friendly service access and policy engagement processes often are limited to major cities and can leave behind young people in rural or hard-to-reach areas.
Young people’s involvement in the HIV response is primarily silo’d. The results from this study showed that young people’s involvement in community based response to HIV is both essential for the response to HIV as well as beneficial for the young people themselves.
Lastly it was a real pleasure and privilege to work with the Watipa scholars in this research – young people really can be trusted to do robust and rigorous research, including about issues of importance to ourselves. To the team – Phillip Lapozo, Togala Zulu, Rose Omollo, Aisha Bukenya, Aisha Nalukenge, Chanju Mwase, Prudence Chavula, Lydia Pakira, Comfort Menard Mkalira, Micah Nyama, Daitso Mawina, Emmanuel Duah, Tia Malungo, Rachel Nyasulu, Sabitri Pathak, Leonard Chimz Chakanga, Boru Hussein, Naomi Nyasulu, Mariam Nassaka, Julia B Omondi, Megan Auzenbergs and Lucy Stackpool-Moore – I salute you!