PEPFAR Launches ‘Youth Against HIV’ Initiative

On Friday morning, at the Crystal Towers Hotel in Cape Tower, PEPFAR hosted a two-hour special session designed to address the critical role of youth in ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. The event was hybrid, with 3,000 youths joining online from around the world.

Delegates in Cape Town included Ambassador Dr John Nkengasong (Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator of United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS Globally); Director General of the Department of Health, Dr Sandile Buthelezi; US Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety; Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, CEO of the African Union Development Agency; and Ms Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS; and youth representatives from across Africa.

Among the special guests were three TB HIV Care Youth Ambassadors from KZN: Ntokozo Mkhize (Peer Educator), Sabelo Mhlongo (LSA) and Thabo Mokoena (DREAMS IES Ambassador). They were accompanied by Jenny Mcloughlin (Programme Director: PPPrev/PrEP).

The two-hour session flew by, but as Sabelo said, they loved the opportunity to connect with youth across Africa who are all fighting for the same cause (including representatives from Cape Town, Nigeria and Tanzania).

The session ended with Ambassador Nkengasong announcing funding for a new ‘Youth Against HIV’ initiative. Essentially, PEPFAR is committing $20 million to:

  • Support innovations for effective HIV awareness, prevention and treatment strategies that engage youth-led and youth-focused organisations.
  • Reduce barriers that prevent youth access to HIV services.
  • Elevate youth voices and promote meaningful youth engagement in HIV programming.
  • Strengthen the capacity of youth-led organisations to build effective partnerships with country governments, the private sector, and global stakeholders in the HIV/AIDS response.

Ambassador Nkengasong explained that $20 million is just the beginning. If partners show impact, PEPFAR will be able to grow the initiative. There’s no doubt that Ntokozo, Thabo and Sabelo are up for the task!