50th PCB - Intervention by Iwatutu Joyce Adewole - Agenda item 10 Thematic Segment

Delivered by Iwatutu Joyce Adewole, Africa, during the second panel of the Thematic Segment "Positive learning: harnessing the power of education to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination, empower young people and provide a comprehensive HIV response"

I am a young disabled woman from Africa. If I were in Canada or the USA, I would be a young black immigrant woman with a disability. This tells that everywhere in the world, young people embody multiple intersecting, marginalized and overlapping identities that increase their vulnerabilities. School, next to their home, is supposed to be the safest place for adolescents and young people. Sadly, the school stands as a place where many of us face inequalities, human rights violations, and continuous stigma and discrimination. Covid-19 showed the world the realities of the widening inequality gap in the educational system in Africa and the disparities which exist within the rest of the world.

How do we break down HIV-related stigma and discrimination without sharing knowledge of the proper responses? How do we address the rising epidemic with ignorance standing in the way? The answer is simple; we can’t.

Formal and informal education with innovative approaches will play a vital key role in addressing these inequalities and shrinking the inequality gap, thereby reducing HIV transmission and HIV-related stigma and discrimination. What matters is giving young people access to inclusive education and ensuring a qualitative education through good measurement techniques and holding the government accountable for its commitments. Information remains a critical tool, and it is essential to maximize it. The focal point of CSE is to provide adolescents and young people with well-rounded information that extends beyond head knowledge and practical applications of what they have learned. We believe that with the proper learning, they will understand themselves better both physically and mentally, develop “respectful social and sexual relationships”, and make their individual choices conscious of how they affect themselves and others.

Today’s young people must be at the front and center of the response for large-scale global change, to drive conversations and actions and end the epidemic. We must be seen as Co-leaders in the AIDS response, Youth engagement must be fostered by actively listening to youths in the process of leading discussions and the decision-making processes, it must be adequately and sustainably funded and given resources to thrive. The doors must be thrown open for teachers and students living with HIV. This is a start to building back better and demolishing the walls of exclusion and discrimination come crashing down.


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