Youth Enagement Workshop

Africa REACH, Desmond Tutu Health Foundation and ViiV Healthcare Youth Engagement Workshop

Optimising on youth voices to support ending Paediatric AIDS in Africa

On August 24th, Africa REACH hosted a youth engagement event in collaboration with ViiV Healthcare and the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, under the theme ‘Optimising on Youth Voices to support Ending Pediatric AIDS in Africa.’

What was the Objective of the Meeting?

The event served as an opportunity for Africa REACH to introduce itself as an initiative to relevant stakeholders in the adolescent and youth HIV space in South Africa, including Y+ Global, PATA, NACOSA and the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation’s youth partners.
Africa REACH engaged with the youth directly and heard how they envision we can work together through an open and frank dialogue with youth activists living with HIV and understand the needs of a high-level pediatric AIDS advocacy campaign better than most, from a lived perspective.
Africa REACH also introduced the Leadership Council members from South Africa and the youth space across the continent and incorporate them into the dialogue and produce a draft blueprint for the youth engagement strategy of Africa REACH 2022- 2025.

What were some of the key take-aways?

  • Activists to renew pediatric focused advocacy and regimen.
  • Information sharing on pediatric treatments, especially to young mothers living with HIV
  • Young people living with HIV need to focus on working on their own self-stigma as a stand-alone issue.
  • Sero-neutral approach to health care centers and service providers will help in reducing stigma.
  • Age-appropriate HIV and sex education to start at 7 years old.
  • Educate adults on HIV-positive youth challenges to reduce youth stress at home.
  • Consistent and open conversation with healthcare providers on treatment and the physical and emotional reactions to them. Keep ourselves educated on the relevant trends in treatments and the effects thereof.
  • Africa REACH, together with Desmond Tutu Health Foundation and other partners, provides factual and relevant data on current statistics and treatment updates.
Youth Involvement
  • Youth to play a more active and participatory role in national HIV program design and policy development.
  • Youth to proactively inform themselves on HIV updates regarding treatment.
    Africa REACH to provide an open and positive space for young people to talk about sex and all related consequences.
HIV and General SRHR Messaging
  • Messaging needs to be simple and accessible to the adolescent and youth audience.
    Terms need to be defined, no acronyms and detailed breakdowns of concepts.
  • Influencers need to be from the communities the messaging is targeting, to maximize on the audience and potential success of the message.

Who attended the meeting?

  • Deborah Waterhouse (DW), CEO;
  • Kimberly Smith (KS), Head of Research and Development;
  • Lauren Carey (LC), Head of International;
  • Stephen Rea (SR), Head of External Affairs and Communications;
  • Cathy Ferrier (CF), Head of Positive Action,

Other participants included 11 youth activists, the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation team and the Africa REACH secretariat. The roundtable-styled discussion was moderated by Dr Criselda Kananda and included topics on stigma, needs of pediatric HIV, education and youth involvement.

Next steps…

The event concluded on a high note with the youth participants reiterating their promise to include pediatric HIV advocacy in their activism and to educate themselves on understanding PMTCT better, in order to better advocate for it. The following lessons were learned from the Africa REACH secretariat:

  • Support stronger youth participation in pediatric HIV events and build their capacity to do so. 
  • Prepare a country and event-specific factsheet, based on the Africa REACH General Messaging Sheet, which includes:
    • Prepare Leadership Council Members on treatment and U=U messaging
    • Guidance on PMTCT and treatment from WHO AFRO, UNAIDS etc. 
    • Political messaging
    • Use existing shared drive with partners to share information for the General Messaging Sheet