Bold Collaboration: The Future of Getting to Zero

By Gillian Dolce, Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA)

Those of us working in the HIV response know that young people are uniquely vulnerable to new infections. We hear the troubling statistics about risk, especially for young women. For example, young women in sub-Saharan Africa, is 8 times more likely than her male counterpart to be HIV contract HIV. If she is also a sex worker or injecting drug user, she is barred from accessing the information and services that she needs to stay healthy.

The solutions are not new; we know how to reduce young people’s risk of getting HIV. Comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly services can bring about positive health outcomes for young people who have access to this support. What we struggle to accomplish, however, is meaningful partnerships and collaboration that is not just intergenerational, but that also spans sectors and issue areas in the AIDS response.

Within the framework that has been developed by those in power, young people are taking action. This year we have seen the creation and development of the PACT for Social Transformation, a group of 25 youth-led and youth-serving organization and networks in the youth HIV movement. The goal of the PACT is to mobilize young people around the world to make their voices heard in the corridors of power. With the PACT’s ACT 2015 initiative, the voices of young people will be lifted from grassroots community dialogues to create a new narrative on HIV and AIDS in the post-2015 development agenda.

Collaborations like the PACT and action frameworks like ACT 2015 are examples of the youth movement’s ability to come together, turning to collective action around the needs of young people in the AIDS response. Yet we need more of this bold collaboration that extends beyond the youth HIV movement.

We need to work together to appreciate both the work of activists from previous generations, who fought difficult battles in the early days of the response, and the efforts of the youth movement today. We must continue to call for more youth participation and accountability from our governments, and continue to work together.

We need to be bold in our vision for future programming. How can community-based organizations, funders, governments and advocates partner with youth networks to strengthen outreach? How can we collaborate to make sure we’re reaching the most marginalized youth, so that they can be truly heard?

When we acknowledge the hard fought progress of this movement, we can celebrate their achievements with a keen eye on the work that still remains to be done. The youth movement is coming together, and we are ready to collaborate to get to Zero.