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Youth Participate in UN AIDS Meeting

Youth from around the world are taking part in this week’s UN meeting on AIDS. They’re lobbying delegates to take a strong stand on issues and policies affecting young people.

Diktiso Letshwiti is a 24-yearold youth activist from Botswana. He’s the program officer for the Youth Health Organization of Botswana. From New York, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about his concerns about the UN meeting.

“My immediate reaction to that is the lack of putting you at the forefront in the agenda. Considering that half of the new HIV/AIDS infections around the world are among young people I think a bold step needs to be taken to put youth in their agenda and even in all the plenary sessions where people are able to speak. Young people need to be given a greater share considering how the HIV/AIDS is affecting them,” he says.

Youth advocacy groups are calling for greater emphasis on prevention and sexual and reproduction health. Letshwiti says, “Young people have the right to information definitely. So, countries must actually take strong or deliberate moves to give young people information, not withholding certain information or being biased toward one method of HIV/AIDS prevention. We need a very comprehensive approach on giving young people as many options as possible because if you impose one or certain methods of prevention young people are not likely to own (sic) those methods. But if you give them options and then help them own those options they are more likely to sustain healthy or positive sexual behavior.”

But AIDS is not always the first concern among young Botswanans, according to the youth leader. He says, “Key are unemployment and poverty. Much as sometimes you try to their capacity or give them condoms, there are young people who feel they should get employment first. And that’s when they’ll have self worth. And if they have self worth or they feel that they are important in the community they are more likely to use condoms.”