World AIDS Day, commemorated on the 1st of December each year, is an opportunity for people worldwide to untie and reflect on the fight against HIV, and to remember those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. It was founded in 1988, and was the first ever global health day.
This World AIDS Day will be unlike the others in many ways. In particular the COVID-19 pandemic has brought back echoes of the hard-fought battles over nearly 40 years of the AIDS epidemic, and is threatening to further throw off course the international response, at a time where it is clear we have not done enough to meet the self-set targets of 2020. Both the PACT and Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, as youth-led organisations working on HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world, are advocating for young people globally who have been disproportionately shouldering the burden of new HIV infections.
In order to tackle this and to get the global HIV response back on track, concerted efforts to promote and sustain youth leadership and community level responses are required, both in HIV prevention and service access, as well as in tackling the stigma and discrimination faced by young people living with HIV globally.
In this edition of the Watchdog, poetry, prose, and art pieces have been curated and published in a piece of work that brings together work from a diverse group of young people who have in some way or another been impacted by HIV. They demonstrate the power and passion that young people have for facing head-on the issues and hunger for justice that is inherent within all of us.
This World AIDS Day is also a time to reflect on and remember all those that have lost their lives as a result of this epidemic; and the innate injustice that is many of these deaths could have been prevented had it not been for a lack of willingness by the global north to share its resources in tackling this virus together. This is particularly poignant at a time where vaccines for COVID-19 have been announced; we cannot let this happen again – access must be equitable and not based on ability to pay. This years theme is Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility, and the current pandemic has brought to the forefront what those of is involved in the HIV response already knew; we can only combat these public health crises in solidarity with one another – this isnt a competition, if one of us is left behind, all of us are left behind.
The campaign to end AIDS is far from over, and we are currently off track to do this by the deadline of 2030. However, as can be seen from the passion and energy emanating from the pieces in this publication there is a tenacity among us young people to get us back on track; we only ask that we be trusted with our own destiny.
There can be nothing about us, without us.
Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights
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