First ladies from Africa and China working towards a future free from AIDS
First ladies from across Africa and the First Lady of China, Peng Liyuan, have reaffirmed their commitment to a future free from AIDS by spearheading a new joint initiative to prevent HIV among young people. China will work with African countries and international organizations to implement a three-year health promotion and HIV prevention advocacy programme for adolescents, starting in 2019.
The China–Africa advocacy campaign was launched on 4 September on the margins of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), in Beijing, China. The campaign aims to increase young people’s access to integrated sexual and reproductive health and HIV services and strengthen their engagement in the AIDS response.Globally, there are around 3.9 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years living with HIV. Around 1600 young people acquire HIV every day and a young person dies every 10 minutes from of an AIDS-related illness.
Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, thanked the first ladies for their collective action in the AIDS response and urged them to continue their high-level advocacy to mobilize resources to support youth engagement for HIV prevention, treatment and care. “Engaging young people means supporting them as partners and leaders in the AIDS response,” said Mr Sidibé. “We will only pick up the pace if we work closely with young people.”
Discussions during the event focused on addressing what puts young people at risk of HIV, including stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence and limited access to reproductive health services and information. The first ladies recognized that ending the AIDS epidemic among adolescents and young people requires amplifying investments where they can make the most difference, such as comprehensive sexuality education, and fostering innovative and multisectoral HIV prevention programmes.
During the event, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, spoke about HIV/tuberculosis coinfection. Tuberculosis is a leading cause of death of people living with HIV.
The first ladies of Africa and China will join forces to stop new HIV infections among young people by sharing information, helping each other to build expertise and mobilizing resources for joint advocacy for HIV prevention.
The first ladies’ HIV advocacy event concluded with the endorsement of a joint statement that calls on governments to ensure HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and universal health coverage, especially for young people, in order to ultimately reach the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
On the sidelines of FOCAC, Mr Sidibé and the First Lady of Malawi, Gertrude Mutharika, met with StarTimes to explore how best to harness new technologies to reach young people with HIV prevention services. StarTimes is using its platform to share HIV prevention and awareness messages through digital television and its new social media application.