Youth Stop Aids- It Ain't Over!!

On March 16th 2017, a collective of intelligent, passionate young people came together in support of Youth Stop Aids.

Youth Stop Aids is a movement campaigning to end AIDS by 2030. As a brilliant man once put:

'In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people. History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now, and right now'

- Nelson Mandela (International AIDS conference, 2000)

With DFID Minister.
17 years on, and we are still campaigning, still raising awareness and still reducing the stigmas around HIV/AIDS. New infections fell by 38% and we are no longer referring to HIV/AIDS as a death sentence.

 I ventured to London on the 16th March, arriving fairly early on a sunny London morning I was greeted by a sea of volunteers, we each shared our stories on why we were here and why we think it was important. The campaign this particular day was called, 'It Ain't Over' and we were working on  the fact that our government are taking their eye off the ball in the global HIV & AIDS response - even though AIDS is now the second biggest killer of young people. With our creative campaigning and mass lobby in Parliament - we reminded decision makers and the public alike that HIV & AIDS Ain't Over. 

This event combined 60 activists, 30 MPs, 1 Department for International Development (DFID) Minister, 2 Lords, 100s of balls... this was our biggest ever Day of Action! After spending the day training we headed off into London Westminster for our stunt, combining the 100s of balls we worked on raising awareness of why it isn't over, I thought I'd share a few facts with you:

AIDS is no longer a death sentence and new HIV infections are easily preventable. We have the tools, like condoms, safe needles and anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), which make it virtually impossible to pass the virus on. 

We’ve learnt a lot over the last 30 years, like who is most at risk of infection and what prevention strategies work. Most importantly, the opportunity to make AIDS history is now within our reach - but we risk undoing all of our hard work.

Keep your eye on the ball! (s?)

Despite the enormous progress made, 2.1 million people still became infected with HIV in 2015. At the same time international donor funding for the global HIV response is beginning to fall, with a drop of 13% between 2014 and 2015. 

The UK has historically played a leading role in the global response, but this is at risk with the expiry of DFID’s strategy on HIV and no plans to renew it. In short, the international community is starting to take its eye off the ball by not paying attention to HIV and AIDS like it used to.

Complacency is a killer. If we don’t step it up, millions of young people will suffer. After all, HIV & AIDS is now the second biggest killer of adolescents in the world - in 2000 it wasn’t even in the top ten.

However that being said, we do have a solution!

The UK Government has the opportunity to be a global leader in the fight to end AIDS and save millions of lives around the world. We know what we have to do and how to do it- we just need serious financial and political will to finish the job.

The recent UK commitment of £1.1bn to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, a major financing mechanism for HIV and AIDS, is a great start and we hope to see similar increases in the UK’s funding to organisations, like UNAIDS. But funding is just the first step - investment will only be effective if backed up by political and programmatic leadership too.

Now that we have the brilliant financial commitment to the Global Fund, we are urging the UK government to publicly state its commitment to ending AIDS and carry out a stocktake review of all its HIV and AIDS programmes. That way we can be sure we are on track to meet the Global Goals commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Caroline Lucas and the Sussex Stop Aids team

With this in mind, I got the opportunity to speak to Caroline Lucas, MP in Brighton. A fantastic supporter who sat with us and spoke a while about what she can do, including placing forward a question into the next parliamentary meeting on our issue. The question addresses DFID having a stocktake review, have a look:

' We (Youth Stop Aids) urge you to carry out a DFID-wide stocktake review of all HIV/AIDS programmes. The review will enable DFID to better assess how it is tackling HIV on its own as well as within wider health and human development programmes and identify where there might be gaps and shortcomings within its programmatic response. A stocktake review will also serve to increase the visibility of DFID’s HIV programming and signal to other donors that HIV continues to be a top priority for DFID.' (Letter from MP to the Secretary of State)

A wonderful day closing to it's end, brilliant contacts made, but most importantly, it was inspirational to see young people fighting the good fight, and I can only hope now, in this fragile warfare times, we can continue to do so and do good globally.

It Ain't Over!


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