Happy International human rights day! Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. On this special day, we want to call your attention to one of the most fundamental rights: the right to health. At CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality (CHOICE), we believe that young people deserve a healthy and happy future. To ensure this, it is crucial that young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are secured. However, we believe that this is impossible without an integrated and comprehensive approach to youth-friendly SRHR and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) health services. Even more pressingly so when taking into account the alarming increase of new HIV diagnoses in Eastern and Central Europe in recent years (1).
While medical innovations have greatly transformed the field of HIV treatment, common patterns of inequity affect the lives of young people and increase their vulnerability to HIV. Over 30% of all new HIV infections globally are estimated to occur among adolescents (2)(3). Young women and girls are more than twice as likely to acquire HIV as compared to young men due to barriers such as gender-based violence and denial of their sexual reproductive health rights. HIV also disproportionally affects young people in key populations including young men who have sex with men, young people who use drugs, young sex workers and young transgender people (3)(4). Barriers to HIV treatment among young people include, lack of access to youth-friendly HIV health services ( e.g. confidential testing, affordable or free services and services that are available after school hours), comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and stigma and discrimination (4)(5)(6).
As space for Civil Society Organizations has been increasingly shrinking, it is crucial that young people explore other arena’s for influencing policy-makers to make our voices, experiences and needs regarding SRHR and HIV health services heard. CHOICE is therefore launching a research-based advocacy project specifically targeting the Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution on the protection of human rights in the context of HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Public Consultation on human rights in the context of HIV. The aim of the project is to:
- Gather evidence on young people’s experiences and needs on integrated youth-friendly SRHR and HIV health services;
- Explore how increased access to integrated youth-friendly HIV health services can help combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic;
- Advocate for integrated youth-friendly SRHR and HIV health services at the OHCHR.
The project will kick off mid-December. The findings of the research will be presented at the OHCHR Public Consultations in February 2019.
Let your voice be heard! Join us in advocating for the meaningful inclusion of young people’s, experiences and needs on integrated youth-friendly SRHR and HIV services! Please keep an eye out for our surveys on our social media or contact youth advocate Linda Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the project.
- ECDC/WHO (2017). HIV/AIDS Surveillance in Europe.
- WHO (2018). Hiv and Youth.(accessed 1/12/2018)
- UNAIDS (2018). Knowledge is Power.
- Avert (2017). Young People, HIV and AIDS. (accessed 1/12/2018)
- Measure Evaluation (2017). Best Practices for Adolescent- and Youth-Friendly HIV Services. (accessed 1/12/2018)
- UNAIDS (2017) .When women lead change happens: Women advancing the end of AIDS.