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New generation of leaders vital for change
Francis Rwodzi

April 19, 2011

It is envisaged that a new breed of young leaders should act as change agents for the AIDS response and sexual health of young people, according to the IPPF Africa regional office, the Restless Development, the Commonwealth youth program and the UNAIDS Secretariat.

The framework of New Generation Leadership is to advocate effectively for providing new avenues, opportunities and space for emerging young leaders including those who are living with HIV, to demand and support efforts to achieve universal access for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support as well as achieving broader development goals by 2015.

New Generation Leadership is about Youth-led development and development of young people by young people supported with other partners.

The impetus for New Generation Leadership is grounded on the realization that development planning and programming for young people should not only be youth focused, but youth led. It must not only be led by people who purport to act on behalf of young people, but people with legitimate representation.

There are 1.8 billion young people aged between 10 to 24 worldwide and with an estimated 5 million young people aged between 15 to 24 years living with HIV hence they remain at the centre of the AIDS response and working towards Millennium Development Goals.

The civil society organizations and UNAIDS say that New Generation Leadership should be considered as the means for the empowerment of young people driven and supported by young people, drawing upon their energy, creativity and skills to create positive change.

They say that young people can and will be able to act as change agents if they have the correct and comprehensive information, have the right opportunity and space for meaningful participation and will be able to adapt these information into a form that can be easily related to by their peers.

Sub Saharan Africa still bears an inordinate share of the global HIV burden, accounting for 11.3 million people living with HIV in Southern Africa in 2009.

Among young people in 15 of the most severely affected countries in the region, incidence of HIV infection declined by more than 25 percent in an estimated 22 countries as these young people have adopted safer sexual behavior.

A myriad of socio-economic and geo-political factors have emanated with the advent of HIV that have largely contributed towards the slow attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many countries in Sub Saharan Africa.

Among the key factors are issues of lost human capital, redirection of national resources from national development agenda towards addressing the impact of AIDS, increased costs of health care, increased sexual and gender based violence especially against young people and women among others.

The MDGs outline a comprehensive and ambitious plan to end extreme poverty and hunger, ensure that all boys and girls complete primary school, promote gender equality, improve the health of children and mothers, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and protect the environment. The ultimate objective of this agreement is to make the world a better place for all by the year 2015.

It is a fact that young people are central to the attainment of MDGs, New Generation Leadership is crucial because it provides a framework and platform for meaningful youth participation and engagement in decision making at all levels, governance, service delivery, leadership and management.

The organizations said that it was now time to adopt the "No Youth No Change" attitude and capitalize on the existing youth movement for the AIDS response by providing space for young people to demand their sexual rights, services and better age and sex disaggregated data for informed decision making by advocating with the policy makers and other stakeholders.

While several efforts have been made towards reducing new HIV infections among young people and ensuring access to HIV treatment and care and support. However, very few programs have been notably youth-centred and youth led.

Young people still getting newly affected by HIV and all indications, however point to the fact that, given the genuine opportunity to contribute, young people can and have risen above the challenge and made swift but sustainable impact.

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