Young People must be meaningfully engaged in the fight to curb HIV/AIDS forever.

It is very vital that health workers handling HIV cases create awareness and ensure that people with HIV know the importance of taking precautions and adhering to medication. According to the UPHIA 2020 report by the Ministry of Health Uganda, indicate that the current prevalence of HIV among adults aged 15 to 49 years in Uganda is 5.5% (7.1 percent among women and 3.8 percent among men). Among adults aged 15 years and older, HIV prevalence was 5.8 percent (7.2 percent among women and 4.3 percent among men) corresponding to approximately 1.3 million adults living with HIV in Uganda.

The prevalence of HIV in adults 15 years and above was higher in urban areas (7.1%) than in rural areas (5.2 percent).

Being HIV positive is not the end of life nor is it something to be ashamed of, you can still have an active, quality and healthy sexual life. However, there is a need to live positive and always practice safe sexual behavior, get tested and take your medication. I read a story recently about adolescent university girls and young women in Kenya who intentionally infect other people with HIV, saying they will not suffer alone. This kind of line of thought is part of the problem. These young people believe they have been condemned to die and so they desire to take down as many people as possible along with them which only creates a pandemic and continuous reinfection.

If we are to end this pandemic, we need collective responsibility beginning with the grassroots with the young people taking the lead as the next generation. Leaving them out creates a gap that may only worsen the situation.

I remember during the 2018 Pre-youth AIDS conference which was organized to ensure meaningful youth participation at the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) and amplify the voices of the young people present in Amsterdam, it was clearly noted that young people play a vital role in the curbing of HIV/AIDS worldwide. In 2020, approximately 1.5 million [1.0 million–2.0 million] people were newly infected with HIV this including women and girls who accounted for 50%. Every week, around 5000 young women aged 15–24 years become infected with HIV and yet in sub-Saharan Africa, 6 in 7 new HIV infections among adolescents aged 15–19 years are among girls.

AIDS is still the second leading cause of death among youth worldwide. These same groups are still facing stigma, discrimination, and being denied their rights.

There is a surmounting sense of urgency to invest resources in adolescents, particularly young women. If we want to be the generation to end AIDS, we must meaningfully engage in the sphere of SRHR, own our sexuality, and bodily autonomy.

As we get set for the International AIDs Conference 2022, lets prioritize access to comprehensive sexuality education services and information for every adolescent as it increases their level of sexual responsibility while leading to improved health indicators such as reduced HIV infections, STIs and teenage pregnancy. This year’s International AIDs Conference will run from 27th July to 2nd August 2022 kicking off with the pre-youth at the Palais des Congress de Montreal, Canada, under the theme: Re-engage and Follow the Science.

Writer: Kasiita Mark Muganga, Strategic Communication Advisor SRHR Online Telecaster| and Human Rights Activist

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Frank Byaruhanga is a human rights activist with years of experience in community dialogues, digital communication, advocacy and digital campaigns. He specializes in Media Relation Work, Management and Training with sufficient knowledge in Governance, Accountability, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Youth-led research, Content developer, Creative Activism, Social Media Management and documentary photography.

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