The background to young people today


UNESCO, UNAIDS and a number of other UN partners, bilateral agencies and civil society organisations have joined forces to launch a commitment on HIV prevention and sexual health for all young people that has the potential to change the course of the HIV epidemic in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). At its core, the initiative will aim to make good quality HIV and sexuality education and youth-friendly HIV and sexual and reproductive health services widely available. The initiative sets a new precedent in the region by getting the education and health sectors to work together on a common agenda to support adolescents and young people in response to the HIV pandemic.


The continuing high rates of HIV prevalence in the region, the high numbers of new infections amongst young people, the high levels of unintended pregnancy as well as other unmet sexual and reproductive health needs remain of significant concern. Whilst HIV prevalence rates have declined in some high burden countries in the recent past in Eastern and Southern Africa, these reductions remain insufficient and significant numbers of young people, predominantly young women, are still becoming newly infected.


The commitment initiative is being led by a High-Level Group1 composed of regional leaders in education, sexual and reproductive health and rights and development. It is chaired by Prof Sheila Tlou, former Minister of Health of Botswana and Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for ESA. Members of the High Level Group include: H.E Festus Mogae (Chairman, Champions for an HIV Free Generation); H.E Salma Kikwete, First Lady of the United Republic of Tanzania; and David Coltart, Minister of Education, Zimbabwe amongst others.


At regional level the Southern African Development Community, the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa will play a key role in facilitating dialogue at intergovernmental level. A Technical Committee comprising UN partners, bi-lateral and multi-lateral development agencies and civil society organizations have been guiding and supporting the High-Level Group.


Partners will host national and sub-regional consultations during 2013. These will provide recommendations for action on policy, funding, programme quality and implementation to the High Level Group and policy-level decision makers. The campaign will culminate in a historic ceremony attended by ministers from the 21 countries signing the commitment at ICASA in Dec 20113.

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