Malawi to host Africa youth conference on HIV/Aids

Youths from 30 African countries will next month meet in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe where they will meet different stakeholders to discuss HIV/Aids and sexual reproductive health (SRH) issues affecting their nations and the region.

Known as the Southern and Eastern Africa Youth Conference on HIV/Aids and Reproductive Health Rights for Sustainable Development (SEYCOHAIDS), the symposium will take place Crossroads Hotel from 6-8 November.

The theme for the conference is “Building capacities for Aids and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights Response through Science, Technology and Best Practices”.

According to Global Hope Mobilisation (GLOHOMO), the organisation which is coordinating the symposium, about 300 delegates and 50 journalists drawn from SADC, EAC, ECOWAS and COMESA countries will also attend.

Chibwana: Need for action. -Photo by Kimpho Loka/Nyasa Times

Pointing out that the HIV/Aids pandemic has hit hard everywhere around the continent, mostly affecting the youth, GLOHOMO executive director Caleb Thole said there was need for young people to come together and map the way forward on how they can handle the problem.

Thole was speaking during a media conference held in Blantyre on Thursday. He said among other things, the conference is expected to present new scientific knowledge and offer many opportunities to the youth.

“We are expecting to have a structured dialogue on the major issues facing the global response to HIV and sexual reproductive health and rights in the sub-Saharan Africa region,” he said.

Further, Thole said this was a unique gathering where young researchers, policy makers, activists, educators and people living with the virus meet to share and learn about HIV prevention methods, treatment and care, policies and programs relating to the epidemic and sustainable development in Africa.

“Hosting this conference is a major opportunity for the youth of Malawi because it offers them the chance to showcase the achievements and successes they have registered in the fight against Aids in the country,” observed Thole.

In his remarks, executive director for the National Youth Council of Malawi Aubrey Chibwana, also noted that young people in Malawi, just like in other African countries, are facing a lot of challenges that need action as Malawi is trying to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

He disclosed that the youth, who form a good part of the population globally, are the highly affected and the risk is high among young women who are six times at risk to contract the virus than their male counterparts.

“We have the responsibility to respond. Let’s look at national policies, are they able to respond to the challenges that the pandemic has created among the youth?” he questioned, while saying the meeting will also help impart the necessary expertise in the youths.

“We have 150 youth organisations under the youth council and out of the 25 percent that are implementing HIV/Aids issues, a few have the expertise in what they do, this is one important gathering where they will get such expertise.”

While getting the platform to speak to the authorities, Chibwana also observed that the summit will help young people to build alliances and networks which will help them mobilise resources to implement their projects both in urban and rural Malawi.

Statistics show that about 2.7 million young people in the SADC region are living with HIV, with Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland being the most hit. The prevalence rate in Malawi is 12 percent, with most of the infections happening among the youth aged between 15 and 25.

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