doaThe first day of the 10 Days of Activism Campaign (hosted by Y-Peer) also marks World AIDS Day 2013. This annual day, observed on the 1st of December each year, provides an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV. As 2013 draws to a close, YouAct members recall their work over the past year to advocate for the sexual rights of young people, especially those living with HIV.

A look back at the past year:

– YouAct focuses much of its advocacy on prevention, including prevention of HIV transmission. Our Young People Call for Recognition and Change campaign in 2013 called on MEPs and national decision-makers to implement comprehensive sexuality education programmes, in and out of schools, across the EU and internationally.

– At the UNECE Regional Conference in July 2013, YouAct members advocated for universal access to a full package of sexual and reproductive health services, particularly for people affected by HIV, including information and education; voluntary HIV and STI testing, counselling and treatment; affordable contraceptives, and male and female condoms. In the Chairs Summary of the conference, protecting the rights of people living with HIV to access sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services was reaffirmed.

– The efforts of YouAct members, 1 year ago this week, contributed towards affirmation of young peoples human rights in the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration. The document calls on governments to implement policies and legal frameworks, which protect, promote and fulfill the sexual rights of all young people.

Unfinished business for 2014/2015

The 10 Days of Activism Campaign does not only coincide with World Aids Day; it also takes place during the 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence Against Women. It seems a fitting alignment- because of the direct links between HIV and gender-based violence and discrimination, but also because of the possibilities youth activism presents for bringing about change.

While advocating for sexual rights and access to services for all is an important first step, it is crucial to recognize systematic discrimination, and that specific groups of people are consistently excluded from accessing sexual and reproductive health services. Though sexual rights are universal, applying to everyone regardless of gender or HIV status, often the rights of HIV positive girls and women are violated and ignored. For adolescent girls and women, their access to sexual and reproductive health services may be restricted, provided without full confidentiality and consent, may be under-resourced, or neglect to meet their needs.

In the run up to 2015, and the formulation of a new development framework and set of goals to guide the international community, investing in women and girls is a phrase on the lips of many government delegations. However, the launch of the Euromapping 2013 report earlier this month, shows that the international community has a long way to go before it can be said to be putting its money where its mouth is. The report, produced by the European Parliamentary Forum (EPF) and Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW), shows the continued high level of investment that HIV/AIDS receives, compared with significant resource gaps in sexual and reproductive health service provision. Additionally, despite the evidence of projects such as Integra, which works to strengthen the evidence base and good practice for linking HIV and SRHR, there remains a lack of integration between the two in policy, programme and service development.

Young people and adolescents need, more than ever, to take action to ensure young people, particularly young women and adolescent girls living with HIV, have access to SRH services. YouAct advocates are committed to ensuring young women and adolescent girls are given priority in the next emerging development framework, and that their access to services, and ability to claim their rights, is meaningfully advanced.

Article by Grace Wilentz