Government to work on HEAIDS youth declaration

Pretoria – Government has committed to work with its partners to ensure the implementation of the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS (HEAIDS) National Youth Conference declaration that was handed to leaders by the youth on Sunday.

According to the Department of Higher Education and Training, youth delegates who attended the HEAIDS conference consolidated their main objectives in a declaration that was presented to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, DHET Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana, Deputy Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela, and HEAIDS Conference Co-Chairperson Andile Mthombeni.

The youth said the declaration is their way of holding government accountable.

They called upon government leaders to pledge on their sustained and full-hearted commitment towards achieving the objectives that include:

Implementing free education for the economically vulnerable, as youth understands that HIV status and financial status are interlinked;

Supporting youth in implementing women empowerment programmes that include men, so that they can actively participate in discussions on gender and the fight against patriarchy;
Addressing patriarchy and male privilege within government, so that policy makers can understand the importance of fighting Gender Based Violence and empowering women and young girls;

Creating emergency medical and counselling services for survivors of Gender Based Violence that are accessible to students and young people;

Finding a sustainable solution to provide sanitary towels for female students at universities, colleges and schools;

Addressing the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons and holding universities and colleges accountable to respond to these needs;

Making the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) accessible to all youth in South Africa, so that those that do not have access to the internet can also apply for the NYDA grant programmes; Helping youth in activating the youth sector of the South African National AIDS Council;

Funding regular youth summits and dialogues at universities, Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and schools to give youth the opportunity to raise their concerns directly with our political leadership; and Youth would like to propose that the results of the government in achieving these goals will be monitored regularly and evaluated by an autonomous National Youth Forum.

The department’s HIV/AIDS Programme Director Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia said the declaration is taken incredibly seriously and government will endeavour to work with its partners to ensure implementation.

“You cannot attempt to change a person’s circumstances without first understanding them… and who better to help us understand the struggles of the youth than those who face them every day.

“We have long believed that the traditional top-down approach is severely outdated and that if the pandemic is to be halted, a new approach should to be taken.

“It is clear that our current HIV/AIDS interventions are not adequately reaching our young people, especially in the TVET sector,” he said.

Deputy Minister Manana said he found the conference ground-breaking as it brought policy makers into direct contact with the real issues affecting young people.

“This allows for the co-creation of a solution for the HIV epidemic in South Africa. We must increase our efforts to tackle the pandemic, particularly in the higher education sector.

“Health issues undermine the achievement of South Africa’s core educational outcomes and put the future of our country at risk,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za