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© Lucy Wanjiku Njenga speaking at the thematic segment of the PCB in June 2016

Close brush with death!

Lucy Wanjiku Njenga, leader of Sauti Sikika, an adolescent wing within All In! Kenya, supported by NEPHAK, was recommended by the NGO Delegation to speak at the Thematic Segment of the 38th meeting of the UNAIDS PCB in Geneva last June. Lucy shared what she understood as the role of young people (as part of the broader community most affected by HIV) in ending AIDS by 2030: to be listened to and engaged by committed leaders.

She responded to the question, “Where is the money to end AIDS by 2030?” and reflected on how much leaders value the lives of her colleagues living with and getting infected by HIV and dying of AIDS because of dwindling resources for local health centers. She also contemplated the more significant issue of poverty where HIV is situated; for instance, some of her peers often miss taking their anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) because they can’t swallow those huge pills on their empty stomachs. This is her story.

Have you ever had a brush with death?

Perhaps you were driving, and you almost had a head-on collision. Or you were probably on a bus, and if it weren’t for just a minor swerve to the edge of the road that spared your life, you could have been dead. Or you were in a plane with significant turbulence that even when the oxygen masks were released, you were not sure you would make it. So scary were these encounters that you had to take some time to reflect on life. After getting to my destination and finding an email from one of my mentors, Florence, I had such an encounter, asking – pleading – to tell her that I was okay because of the news of a blast. I was confused at first and quickly Googled for information. Alas! I saw all those people who had died, a considerable number of twenty-eight, and sixty of them injured at the Istanbul airport due to suicide bombing, leaving us weak. I was there some three hours earlier. Had I been there for four hours, what would have happened? Was I lucky?

In the lives of young people living with HIV and the communities most impacted by the epidemic, this kind of incident is what we encounter daily. As we keep going to the funerals of our friends and family, we wonder if we are following. We wonder if we are better off, and we know we are not — as clinics and health care centers near us in the rural areas close down one by one due to lack of funding. We have a brush with death more than we ought to. We believe it is our right to enjoy the greatest, “best attainable” health care, the third goal in the Sustainable Development Goals. Sadly, we find that this isn’t the case. Somehow, it is expected that more results will be produced. Since it is HIV and AIDS, it requires more from us than the millions of children, young people, and our loved ones who have already died.

It is only human when – for instance – you have an orange, and you find someone very hungry, you share your orange. You might not give the entire orange, but a piece (carpel) is much better and may keep the person alive for another day. It is wild first to ask this person to show you how the orange will help them or bring results so you can decide if they are worthy of this food. As you do this, you also picture all the other oranges in your barn. But some people are very stingy with even a piece of this orange.

We young people may not be in your big high-level meetings or decision-making meetings in your offices because meaningful involvement and leaving no one behind are just beautiful, sweet phrases in the documents on the next steps that ensure you sleep at night. Rarely are they followed through and when you finally come around to them, it is just for reporting purposes. Yes, young people have come and have given their contributions to your meetings somehow. They may have barely constructed a sentence close to your sophisticated language – words like cohort, circumvent, implement, integrate, and the like. They may have probably wondered if they should have brought their dictionary along when they are meant to represent rural youth.

We see you. We hear you. We feel and figure out where we fall in the chain. We should be a priority. But I guess that is asking too much. There may come a time that we won’t be here anymore, you will have concentrated so much on what matters to you that we will lack meaning and when you come around to remember that it was all about us, that money was not equivalent to lives, that we are the next generation, it will be a little too late, death will have done its worst.

NGO Delegate of

Blog | 1 August 2016

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Our NGO Delegation

The Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) was created to serve as the governing body of UNAIDS. The PCB includes a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) Delegation composed of five members and five alternates that represent five geographic regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America.

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UNAIDS and the UN

UNAIDS was established in 1994 through a resolution of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and made operational in January 1996.

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