The eighth South African Aids conference kicked off on a fiery note this morning as young people told policymakers and civil society to stop coming up with policies and campaigns aimed at them without them.
They said these campaigns often didn’t address the real challenges facing the youth of this country.
The young people, who remained anonymous during their presentation, said it was time to stop launching similar campaigns year after year.
Speaking on behalf of the youth, a young woman living with HIV said:
“We need to stop with coming up with campaigns about us every year – she conquers, he conquers, they conquer – and start reflecting on where we are.”
“What is it that we are conquering? She asked.
“Let’s stop with these campaigns and implement what we promised.
"Let’s involve the youth when coming up with campaigns about them because they are the ones who know the issues we face,” she said.
The “conquerors campaign” is a three-year, multimillion-rand campaign launched by the national department of health.
The aim is to decrease new HIV infections, teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence among young women and adolescent girls, and to increase the number of girls in school and increase economic opportunities for young people, particularly young women.
UNAids estimated that there were about 2000 new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 years each week.
The youth suggested that non-governmental organisations were fighting a one-sided fight that was often fuelled by the need to get more funding from international donors.
“[These organisations] hold government accountable but they are not saints either. We see you and your agendas,” she said.
“Stop chasing after money, international funds and donors and focus on sustaining solutions. Our lives are at stake. HIV is not a business. Stop making money out of it,” she said.
The SA Aids conference, being held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, ends on Thursday.
This year’s conference is held under theme: The long walk to prevention: Every voice counts.