Twenty-four young people gathered in Suva, Fiji, / to take stock of the country’s progress/ in meeting the commitments in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration /on Ending AIDS/ and to identify what puts young people at risk of HIV.
The participants recognized that Fiji has taken important steps to establish laws and policies that enhance young people’s access to sexual, reproductive and HIV services. However, they noted that there are many factors that jeopardize young people’s health, including stigma and discrimination, limited access to condoms and a lack of harm reduction programmes for young drug users.
“Many young people have basic knowledge about HIV, its transmission and prevention. Many of them are not aware that antiretroviral treatment exists. It is critical that young people have access to information which is detailed and are informed on where they can obtain it,” said Swastika Devi, from the Reproductive Family Health Association of Fiji.
Greater technical and financial support for participation by young people in community responses to HIV was identified as important. The consensus from the group was that capacity-building of youth leaders should be supported, including leaders from communities, key populations and people living with HIV, in order to enhance their engagement in advocacy and decision-making.
The participants also agreed to form a sexual and reproductive health and rights youth network, which will finalize an advocacy road map focusing on their priority issues, which are youth-friendly services at clinics, developing a standard package of youth-centred services and comprehensive sexuality education that goes beyond puberty. The network has established contact with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and Fiji’s national steering committee for World AIDS Day to strengthen youth-focused activities for World AIDS Day.
“The #UPROOT consultation has given us the reality of how the commitments in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS affect young people in Fiji,” said Renata Ram, UNAIDS Country Director for Fiji. “Young people continue to be left behind in the AIDS response, despite being the age group most affected by the epidemic. The future of the HIV epidemic in Fiji will be determined by how we package our services towards young people. Failing to do so will push us further from ending AIDS.”
The consultation was part of the #UPROOT youth-led political agenda, launched by the PACT, a global coalition supported by UNAIDS of more than 80 youth organizations and networks working on HIV to respond to the barriers that put young people at risk of HIV. Similar #UPROOT meetings have taken place in Panama, Cameroon and Ghana.