To ensure that young people have the information and tools required to actively engage in the 21st International AIDS Conference, the Durban Youth Force, a coalition of youth advocates, convened a youth preconference event on 16 and 17 July at the Durban University of Technology.
The event was aimed at providing a platform for young people to acquire skills and get their views reflected in the conference outcome documents, to strengthen dialogue among young people on youth-led accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals, to take stock of youth engagement in the AIDS response and to develop a strategy for transitional leadership within the youth movement.
During the two-day event, a session was held on preparing for the fourth phase of the ACT
!2015 initiative, which will run through to December 2017. ACT!2015 is a youth-led social action initiative to inspire a new wave of activism in the AIDS response by using social media and online technology to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, spoke to the participants about the critical role that young people can play in holding governments accountable for their commitments to the AIDS response and for advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Speakers at the closing session included Princess Tessy of Luxembourg and Princess Sikhanyiso of Swaziland.
“Young people must be in the lead in mobilizing their communities, holding their governments to account and finding new ways to monitor the effectiveness of the HIV response to ensure that our programmes and investments are reaching those most in need.”
“My passion, my interest and my commitment to women’s rights, women’s empowerment and women’s health, to sexual and reproductive health and to our right to choice is something that I’ve always had.”
“We must put an end to inequality worldwide. We must leave no one behind.”
“This was the first International AIDS Conference after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, making young people’s strong participation a critical element to advance the AIDS response and ensure access to services, human rights for all and youth-led accountability.”
“We, the young people, now are not only demanding our meaningful engagement but are also working to ensure that our leaders and governments are held accountable for their commitments made for achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”