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New generation leadership for the AIDS response and MDGs, is it necessary?
Francis Rwodzi

May 09, 2011

Following overwhelming response to my first article on New Generation Leadership among young people, I have been requested by many to write more on this important HIV and AIDS response mechanism. This week, I look at why New Generation Leadership is important for the AIDS Response and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Southern Africa.

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) and the African UNION (AU) say that Sub-Saharan Africa region still bears an inordinate share of the global HIV burden, accounting for 11.3 million people who were living with HIV in the region in 2009 and nearly one third more then were living with the virus a decade earlier.

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. Similar to HIV treatment access, the room for continued improvement on this success is great, but there is very limited date available on the treatment services for young people.

In 2009, globally, comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV among both young men and women has increased slightly since 2008 but at only 34 percent, the number of young people with this comprehensive knowledge is barely one third of the UNGASS target of 95 percent, UNAIDS said.

For the almost 20 years, a lot of work by different actors has contributed to the AIDS response at all levels. Preventive measures have been made at all levels to minimize the impact of the epidemic jointly with creating access to quality care, fighting stigma and discrimination as well as addressing the social drivers of the epidemic such as human right violations and gender inequality.

A lot of socio-economic and geo-political factors have emanated with the advent of HIV that have largely contributed towards the slow attainment of the MDGs in many countries in the 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.

In Africa, young people between 10-24 years constitute an important and significant part of population. However, this is not reflected in their level of influence and inclusion in public decision-making and policy interpretation processes. The low and insignificant numbers of young people participating in decision making and public policy institutions across the globe evidence this, which require to be investigated and answered urgently.

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.

AU and UNAIDS say that looking at the recently held MDGs summit, it showed that globally at worldwide level, the achievements seems to be promising but Sub Saharan Africa is still a long way from achieving those goals.

It is a fact that young people are very central to the attainment of each of the MDGs. The 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 New Generation Leadership framework calls for more commitment, innovation and productivity by both the young people and adults increased that can build and fostered through strong adult and youth partnerships and coordinated inter-generational knowledge and skills transfer at all levels.

"No Youth No Change" is a fundamental fact and more than ever, now it is time to capitalize on the existing youth movement for the AIDS response and also working towards the MDGs and enhance a youth movement by providing space and opportunities for young people to demand their sexual health rights, services and better age and sex disaggregated data for informed decision making by advocating with policy makers and other stakeholders.

In the next episode of New Generation Leadership, we are going to look at the different work streams that can be included in new generation leadership, what are currently ongoing and promising practices from Africa and across the globe. We shall also take time to look at the several challenges to New Generation Leadership and the existing gaps.

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