Unaids releases briefs to better protect youth from HIV

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Unaids developed several briefs to help countries better fight the Aids epidemic among young people. The briefs are to be officially launched this Thursday in Dakar (Senegal), during the International conference on Aids and sexually transmitted diseases in Africa. Mary Otieno is technical adviser for HIV/Aids at the United Nations Population Fund. She explains what the briefs are all about.

From Dakar

Unaids gets another tool the fight against HIV among young people. A task team from this United Nations inter-agency program has developed seven briefs aimed at fastening the war against the deadly Aids virus. These include a general guideline plus six other briefs that deal with specific areas such as health, education and vulnerable children. The whole project is to be launched on Thursday in Dakar, Senegal, at the ongoning International Conference on Aids and sexually transmitted diseases in Africa.

Mary Otieno is technical adviser for HIV/Aids at the United Nations Population Fund, one of the organizations that took part in the development of the briefs. She explains throws light on how the idea of the briefs was born and what they are all about.

Afrik-news.com : How was the ‘briefs’ born?

Mary Otieno : There was a systematic review done in 2006 of programs looking at interventions that worked based on evidence in the area of HIV and young people. It was published by WHO through the inter-agency task team on HIV and young people, that is made of the ten Unaids co-sponsors and civil society members, NGOs, research institutions, academia…. Based on that, the task team decided: “Yes, we know what works now in the health sector, in the education sector. So what can we do?”. We then we decided to provide a guidance based on these evidence to the country teams and develop the short briefs for the country teams in several sectors.

Afrik-news.com : What are the briefs about?

Mary Otieno : There is an overall brief that looks at HIV and young people, and the framework of response, and then there are six other briefs: one looking at the actions that need to take place in the health sector, the second one is about what we need to do for young people in the work place, the other one is looking at the education sector and what the response needs to be, then we have one to look at what is to be done in the humanitarian sector – a neglected area -, then we also look at the community which is a huge part of where young people are and what it can do. We also look at those most at risk, young people: young sex workers, young ID (internally displaced) youth and the young MSM (Men who have sex with other men). We hope that the briefs will guide the country teams to accelerate their response on HIV and young people.

Afrik-news.com : What do you expect from the briefs?

Mary Otieno : The purpose of the task team is to foster a joint, accelerated and harmonized response at country level in the area of HIV and young people. The whole purpose of the inter-agency does seem to bring people together to deliver, as one, in a coordinated and coherent manner in the area of HIV and young people. And we decided to develop the guidance briefs to provide a guidance to the UN country teams, including governments, NGOs, youth networks and organizations on what actions needed in the area of HIV and young people to respond effectively.

Afrik-news.com : Are these briefs an acknowledgement of the fact that the former way of dealing with HIV and young people was wrong?

Mary Otieno : Not necessarily. But now we know what works because there is evidence in certain areas. Not all areas, but we know what needs to be done in a school. We know that a school based curriculum that is taught by others works: it helps young people delay getting into sexuality, we know that they use contraceptives or condoms if informed. We know that they develop skills to negotiate, be it in violence, be it in conflict resolution in use of condom in a relationship… So now that we know that, we decided to use this evidence to guide the country teams.

Afrik-news.com : Do the briefs take into account the specificities of each country?

Mary Otieno : No. We have stated in the briefs that for any response they must look at their context, they must look at their epidemic, they must look at and know their epidemics and adapt accordingly. But these are general guidelines that, we think, any response must have. In the workplace we believe that certain things must happen, whether you are in Asia, in Africa or wherever. But looking at your context you adapt to your culture your policies and your epidemic level.

Afrik-news.com : Anything else you would like to add?

Mary Otieno : We hope that governments, UN country teams, young people and civil society will use the briefs. They could be used for reviewing their country plan, for advocacy, for proposal writing – say in the Global Fund proposal. So we hope that it’ll be applied by all those concerned, especially, in the area of young people.

Health file  The lack of education and political will, poverty, out-moded traditional beliefs, to mention but a few, have been widely blamed for causing severe and sometimes unwarranted health catastrophies of genocidal proportions on the African continent. Child killer diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, water borne diseases, HIV/AIDS, among other preventable ailments have killed millions in their wake. As rightly said by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on May 13, 2000 "More people (...) died of Aids in the past year (1999-2000, ndlr) in Africa than in all the wars on the continent".
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