Pancap forum to examine role of youth in HIV/AIDS response

The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (Pancap) will host a meeting of youth leaders this weekend in Port of Spain, Trinidad to discuss the role of youth in the response to HIV and AIDS, and draft a framework for regional youth advocacy.

The forum, which will be held from April 21 to April 22, will involve the participation of youths from 19 Caribbean countries, including Guyana.

According to the press statement released by Pancap and Caricom, Dr Astell Collins, the Pancap Youth Advisor, related that the meeting will help to create a strategy for youth leaders to implement in order to respond to the range of challenges young people face with regards to sexual health and HIV.

Included on the meeting’s agenda are in-depth discussions surrounding issues of sexual health and the barriers blocking access to sexual health services, as well as sessions to identify what knowledge and tools are needed for youths to protect themselves against HIV.

Collins noted that young people in the Caribbean, especially among the key populations, are disproportionately at risk of HIV infection and face greater barriers to accessing prevention services.

He acknowledged that this access is further hindered by challenges stemming from stigma and discrimination, violations of human rights and gender-based violence.

“…HIV prevalence remains high among key populations such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, and young people….there is a need to work more systematically with young people belonging to key populations who experience greater challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health services,” Collins was quoted as saying.

It was noted that youth leaders representing each of the key populations will be in attendance at the meeting.

The statement said this week’s youth meeting forms part of a wider intervention programme created by PANCAP for youth advocacy. The programme also includes youth advocacy training, facilitating youth leaders’ participations in high-level meetings to influence policy decisions affecting youth, and the development of a youth advocacy network.

This week’s meeting is the first of those initiatives to be implemented and will be held annually for the next three years.

A live stream of the opening ceremony of the youth forum and other key presentations and activities related to the event on Friday can be accessed on the Pancap Facebook page.

The keynote address will be delivered at the opening ceremony by Senator Robert T.L.V Browne, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, who also serves as Chair of the Executive Board of Pancap.

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