December 2, 2019
In AVAC Report 2019: Now What?, we called out to these advocates, members of “Generation Now”, encouraging them to sustain their bold efforts in the fight against HIV. Below is one response and more are available here.
The author, David Ita, is a community HIV prevention advocate from Nigeria and 2019 AVAC Advocacy Fellow with New Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society (NHVMAS).
Reading your letter to Generation Now, made me think of my own work in HIV advocacy and the particular challenges young people in Nigeria face accessing both sexual and reproductive health services and HIV prevention options. These barriers have a particularly negative affect on young women. Adolescent girls and young women contract HIV earlier in life and have higher incidence of HIV infection than their male peers.
As an AVAC Advocacy Fellow, I promote the integration of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and HIV prevention for young people in Nigeria and I’m working to increase young people’s capacity to serve as HIV prevention advocates in their community. This work makes connections that simply must be made if we want to succeed in defeating HIV. For example, I have worked with civil society, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to address reducing the age of consent for HIV testing and treatment. I want to equip young people with the knowledge necessary to make informed choices regarding their health. This means integrating SRH curriculum in schools and disseminating information regarding PrEP amongst youth. Sharing knowledge is essential amongst this population. Imagine, a 2017 National Health Survey showed that only 29 percent of young women and 27.9 percent of young men in Nigeria were able to name accurate prevention methodologies! We all must awaken to how important this work is, now imperative it is to change numbers like those. It’s also important to be very serious about incorporating a range of perspectives into the work I do. I have surveyed young people throughout Nigeria on their experiences, and opinions regarding SRH and HIV prevention. These perspectives continue to inform my work with young people.
I have learned much from what they have shared with me. As the youth in my community work together to respond to serious structural obstacles and demand access to necessary services, I see their passion and dedication. To look to the future with optimism, I have made a dedication of my own, putting the younger generation in the center of my advocacy. We all must awaken to how important this work is.