Today, Students And Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) joins the world in commemorating World AIDS Day, a day that has been globally set aside for people to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV and to honour those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.
This year’s theme, “Global solidarity, shared responsibility” calls for governments, donors, faith leaders, civil society, students, youths and everyone to contribute towards making the world a better place through leaving no-one behind.
This year World AIDS Day is being commemorated at a time when the world is under siege from the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the progress made thus far in health and development over the past years including the gains that have been made against HIV.
As a result, the world’s attention has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has been affecting lives and livelihoods. The pandemic has seen young people engaging in risky behaviours like unprotected sex therefore risking contracting HIV. Others have lost parents or guardians who were bread winners due to COVID-19 further exposing them to the poverty leading to risky behaviours. There were also some who defaulted taking Anti-Retroviral Drugs due to stringent restriction measures that inhibited movement during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
COVID-19 has so far proven that during a pandemic no one is safe until everybody is safe and the same needs to be done for HIV/AIDS. No one should be left behind if we are to succeed in combating the global epidemic hence the need to ensure that we continue to work on eliminating stigma and discrimination within tertiary institutions and society as a whole.
Women and Girls must have their human rights fully respected. The marginalisation of sexual minorities further compromises the efforts to eliminate AIDS by 2030.
As we continue to take dual action in fighting against COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, SAYWHAT would like to take this opportunity to call on government, college authorities and other duty bearers to prioritise students’ access to treatment by ensuring that college clinics across the country become Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) initiation sites. Access to treatment is a key component of the prevention strategy in the HIV response.
SAYWHAT re-emphasises the role that young people should play in ending AIDS by 2030 agenda especially through engaging in responsible sexual behaviours. As such, we are implementing the Online CONDOMIZE Campaigns in collaboration with various funding partners through which we continue to engage young people across the country promoting access to, and correct and consistent use of condoms as the only protective measure that offers dual protection against unintended pregnancies and STIs.
Young people are a priority, so is their access to services. Together we can fight against the spread of HIV and COVID-19!