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[afro-nets] Influencing HIV/AIDS policy and programs through youth participatory process


  • From: "Esther Agbarakwe" <donestyc@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2006 07:34:58 -0800 (PST)

Influencing HIV/AIDS policy and programs through youth participatory process
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In most African countries, the commitment of the leadership to all aspect of HIV/AIDS prevention and management programs has been crucial to the success of intervention programs. In Countries in which HIV epidemic has taken hold and surpassed the 5% prevalence rate, lack of political will has been a major contributory factor. With an estimated 5% prevalence rate, Nigeria is on the cusp of either controlling its epidemic-and even reversing its HIV rate- as Uganda and Tanzania succeed in doing, or having the rate exceed 20%, as has occurred in South Africa and Botswana. Political will and action are critical ingredient in any country?s battles against the epidemic, and Nigeria is no exception.

Policies are created through a process of problem identification, analysis, and solution that involves a wide spectrum of stakeholders. Participatory policy development is a process that enables those experiencing the particular problem for which the policies are being developed to be more directly involved in designing policy at each different stage. This wider involvement improves the odds that weaknesses will be identified and rectified before implementation and that the policies therefore be more effective .In addition the process leads to greater accountability through direct engagement as well as through greater understanding.

Policy is not shaped simply on the basis of ?good? research or information, nor does it emerge simply from bargaining among the actors or clearly defined options. Rather it is more complex process through which particular consideration come to frame what matters and which voices count in policy deliberations in particular political and institutional context. Making sense of participation in policy process requires an analysis of ways in which power and knowledge defines policy spaces for engagement, privilege certain voices and excluding others.

HIV/AIDS is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today, we, young people remain at the center stage of the epidemic in terms of transmission, vulnerability, impact and potential for change. Our generation has not known a world with out AIDS.

The Declaration of Commitment (DoC) on HIV/AIDS, adopted by the Members state of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in June, 2001, reflects global recognition of the pandemic as the single greatest threat to the well being of future generations. It establishes, for the first time ever, time-bound target to which governments and the United Nations may held accountable. Most importantly, the Declaration recognizes young people?s particularly vulnerability to HIV infection and gives direction to governments on how to effectively address the HIV/AIDS pandemic among us.

According to UNFPA Report written by young people from the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) and Global Youth Partners (GYP), shows that in resource-constraint areas young people rarely benefits from HIV presentation, campaigns messages are not targeted towards them or they do not have access to TV, Radio, or the Internet. In addition, UNESCO estimates that 57 million young men and 96 million young women are illiterate world wide, greatly reducing the chances that HIV prevention messages in print will reach most at risk of infection

Young people are often hardest hit by poverty because of powerlessness, lack of education, skills and experience, and because their specific needs are often ignored by governments. 15% of young people (209 million) live on less than $1 per day and 45% of young people (515 million) live on $2 per day. This means that the majority of young people can not afford or easily access HIV Voluntary counseling and testing , reproductive health services, condoms, or anti retroviral therapy (ART). Poverty drives young people to towards risk behaviors such as sex work and injecting drugs.

At the end of the research, the young people recommended that:
-Government address the needs of young people in their National AIDS Programme and police and their National Youth Policies
-Government Scale up funding for programme that work and for youth on HIV/AIDS especially with youth-driven activities
-Government increase coverage comprehensive youths-friendly information and services including life skills-based education
-Government work in partnership with young and youth ?driven initiatives on HIV/AIDS policy-making and programme design, implementation and evaluation
.
The Nigerian government, like most others, is responsible for establishing policies to govern the country?s HIV/AIDS programme and services. Policy development is not simply a technical issue but is also of government, requiring the accommodation of varying interests with ultimate purpose of common good. This process can be either through fiat or consultation.

The National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA) recognizes that young people are a crucial component in the effective response to HIV/AIDS; this gave birth to Nigeria Youth Network on HIV/AIDS (NYNETHA), a network of young people working on HIVAIDS and those living positively with HIV/AIDS in the country. The network is present in all the state of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

All these are efforts made by the Nigerian government in Partnership with young people in insisting that young people are considered in HIV/AIDS policy making throughout the federation.

We ask to be regarded as assets, not as liabilities; our diverse voices need to be heard and our talent cultivated so we can be instrument for change. Including young people in the development process of our communities allows us to exercise a fundamental human right and is essential to the development of successful policies and interventions. We therefore urge you to pay heed to our needs and listen to our voices and concerns to help ensure that current and future generations of young people can lead live free of HIV/AIDS. Lets us work together to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

Esther Agbarakwe,
NYNETHA Cross River State,
Programme Director,
Society for Anti AIDS among the Nigerian Students (SANS)
Cross River State
mailto:donestyc@yahoo.com