“Young people’s voices, especially from the global South, have been ignored and muted from the conversation in the HIV and AIDS local, national and global response.”
The voices of young people in the global South have been ignored in the response to HIV. IAS Young Leader Yusuf Hassan Wada from Nigeria is determined to change that. This is his story ...
I am 24 years old and I was born in Katsina, Katsina State of Nigeria. I served as a Youth Ambassador for the IAS and was a 2022 HIV Cure Fellow in the Advocacy-for-Cure Academy, hosted by the IAS and AVAC. I currently work as an Executive Assistant at the Society for Family Health (SFH) Nigeria.
Outside of work, I volunteer for multiple organizations, where I write, advocate and publish on research projects that address important infectious disease-related problems (particularly around HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and antimicrobial resistance) and public health, especially as it affects vulnerable groups.
Front and centre
Young people around the world have been central and frontline responders in fighting against the HIV epidemic. They are advocates, health workers, activists, innovators, social and community workers. They have continuously created youth-friendly spaces and mobilized hard-earned resources to increase awareness of the HIV response, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In low-resource countries like Nigeria and other African countries, young people in all their diversity have been a great strength in making a real difference in providing support to their peers through countering stigma, ensuring meaningful involvement in community-based responses to HIV, and supporting living positively with HIV.
Young people’s voices, especially from the global South, have been ignored and muted from the conversation in the HIV and AIDS local, national and global response. It is shocking to see high-level meetings happening without representation from most-affected populations, such as young people. We must address the harsh realities of what happens when young people are not heard in decisions that affect them. Young people are the leaders of today and we must harness their potential and power to reach an HIV-free society.
Community-based organizations like SFH Nigeria are changing narratives by bringing young people to the centre of decision-making processes, where they are making their voice heard and taking ownership. So, we must not lose hope. We must come together and rise to the challenges to build a more inclusive, sustainable future for all. We will have to work harder to be role models and increase access to education, decision making and leadership. We should also prioritize services that are necessary to solve the challenges we face and reach our full potential.
“Give young people a chance to speak and be heard, and stand with them to ensure that the world harnesses the unique powers and abilities they can bring to the table.”
Agents of change
I would like to appeal to stakeholders, leaders and decision makers at all levels: see young people as agents of change. Give young people a chance to speak and be heard, and stand with them to ensure that the world harnesses the unique powers and abilities they can bring to the table.
Let’s join hands across generations for an AIDS-free generation.