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Caribbean Youths to create roadmap to advocate for Sexual Reproductive Health Services for adolescents and youth

July 25, 2019
Programme: Youth

Image: Kevin Mendez, Chair, PANCAP Youth Advocacy Steering Committee

Thursday 25 July, 2019 (PANCAP Coordinating Unit, CARICOM Secretariat): The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, will convene the Third Regional Meeting of Youth Leaders: Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV and AIDS on 30 July – 2 August 2019 in Port-of-Spain, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The meeting comes approximately one year after the Second Meeting of Youth Leaders and 18 months ahead of the 2020 deadline for reaching the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 Targets—90% of people living with HIV diagnosed, 90% of diagnosed people on treatment and 90% of those on treatment virally suppressed.

Regional youth leaders will be involved in drafting a roadmap with strategies for sustaining youth advocacy for the promotion of gender equality, HIV prevention, actions to end gender-based violence and access to quality sexual reproductive health (SRH) services to meet the needs of adolescents and youth regardless of disability, age, citizenship, gender identity and sexual orientation.

According to Kevin Mendez, Chair, PANCAP Youth Advocacy Steering Committee, the forum will also facilitate sharing of success stories, and lessons learnt from regional youth leaders calling attention to issues concerning adolescents’ health and rights. “Youth leaders will combine their experiences and knowledge to identify innovative ways to address gaps in the achievement of the priority areas of the Caribbean Regional Youth Advocacy Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” stated the Chair, “our goal is to strengthen the Caribbean regional HIV response and create a roadmap with strategies for sustaining youth advocacy”.

In excess of 40 participants will attend, consisting of CARICOM Youth Ambassadors (CYAs), youth leaders from Key Populations, representatives of the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/ World Health Organization (WHO), Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), CariFLAGS, Caribbean Right Here, Right Now (CRHRN), and the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Over 15 Caribbean territories will be represented.

What is PANCAP?

PANCAP is a Caribbean regional partnership of governments, regional civil society organisations, regional institutions and organisations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners which was established on 14 February 2001. PANCAP provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, coordinates the response through the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS to maximise efficient use of resources and increase impact, mobilises resources and build capacity of partners.

What are the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 Targets?

  • By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
  • By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
  • By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

Contact:

Timothy Austin

Communications Specialist

PANCAP Coordinating Unit

CARICOM Secretariat

Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana

Email:      taustin.consultant@caricom.org

Tel: (592) 222-0001-75, Ext. 3409  | Visit www.PANCAP.org

Editor’s Notes:

Overview of PANCAP Youth Initiatives

The Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) 2014-2018 articulates the vision and collective priorities of Caribbean states through their membership in the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP). The CRSF recognises that resources must be strategically allocated to target the epidemic at regional, country, community and individual levels. Doing so effectively will require establishing and sustaining an enabling environment (Strategic Priority Area 1) by addressing social and cultural drivers of the epidemic and by removing barriers to access sexual and reproductive health information, education and services. In particular, more conscious efforts to address human sexuality are needed in order to equip young people with the regional public goods including knowledge and tools they need for healthy development.

As of 2014, there were 280 000 [210 000–340 000] people living with HIV, 8800 [5700–13 000] AIDS-related deaths among adults, and 44% [33%-54%] of adults living with HIV accessing HIV treatment in the Caribbean. Young people, especially among key populations, in Caribbean are disproportionately at risk of HIV infection, and they face greater barriers to accessing prevention services. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), HIV prevalence among young people is 0.07% and 0.05% in females and males in the non-Hispanic Caribbean and 0.2% and 0.3% in the Hispanic Caribbean both respectively. In Jamaica, where the data are available, higher estimated HIV prevalence has been reported among gay, men that have sex with men (14%) and transgender adolescent girls (27%).  While the regional response has realised some progress with a 43% reduction among adults and a 90% reduction in children acquiring HIV, gaps and challenges remain.  HIV prevalence remains high among Key Populations (KPs) such as Sex Workers (SW), Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), and young people.  At the same time, challenges regarding stigma and discrimination, violations of human rights and gender-based violence continue to hinder access to services for young people in general.

To work more systematically with young people belonging to KPs who are more difficult to reach, PANCAP/Global Fund grant programme proposed to collaborate with CVC/COIN to link at-risk youth with the CYAP. The CYAP provides a unique platform for leadership development and collaboration that can strengthen the participation of a more diverse and better-informed youth constituency in CARICOM decision-making. This will serve a mutually beneficial purpose of strengthening the relevance and impact of the Youth Ambassadors as well as providing access to high-level CARICOM fora for KP youth, allowing for collaborative approaches to high-level advocacy that better links the issues and priorities of CARICOM to those of young people. This initiative supports the inclusion and participation of some Key Population groups (i.e. PLHIV, MSM, SW and youth) in the regional response addressing the critical gaps given the overwhelming evidence of the main drivers of HIV transmission in these groups.

The First Meeting of Youth Leaders held in April 2017 allowed for in-depth discussion of sexual health issues affecting young people, identified what are barriers to their access to sexual health services, as well as identify what knowledge and tools are required to protect themselves from HIV. The meeting provided input required to develop a regional advocacy framework on key sexual health issues affecting youth and to inform subsequent training to strengthen advocacy skills of regional youth leaders. This has strengthened the inclusion of youth leaders in the regional and national responses to work towards a more coherent and holistic approach to issues affecting youth from key populations and young people living with HIV: the dissonance between the age of sexual initiation (before age 15), prevailing legislation on the age of consent (16 years), and the age for independent access to health care (18 years) with the exception of Jamaica in which age for independent access for health care is 16, the implementation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in all schools in the Caribbean and Gender-neutral laws that protect victims of sexual exploitation.

The formalization of a Steering Committee on Youth Advocacy and follow up meetings are an innovative approach to mobilise regional youth leaders to actively engage in high-level advocacy and policy dialogues by linking the CYAP with PLHIV youth leaders and other sexual and reproductive health youth activities/leaders.

The Second Meeting of Youth Leaders held in May 2018, provided the opportunity for an in-depth discussion on the achievements and challenges confronted by youth leaders in addressing the three priority areas identified in the Caribbean Regional Youth Advocacy Framework (CRYAF) to set in motion practical advocacy tools and techniques that can be adapted per country context. The meeting served to identify regional and international mechanisms that can be used as best practice models for the achievement of priority objectives, provide the opportunity to exercise advocacy techniques with parliamentarian(s), CSO representation and CYAs through a panel discussion addressed sexual and reproductive health issues and concerns identified by youth leaders. The meeting enabled the adaptation of standardized data collecting and reporting tool used by youth leaders in their respective countries. This informed PANCAP of opportunities to support an innovative approach to mobilize regional youth leaders to actively engage in high-level advocacy, as well as further develop advocacy tools and materials to review and address policies, practices and laws that affect young people’s vulnerabilities to HIV.

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