This year’s International AIDS Conference was rich with research findings and innovative social strategies to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Listening to speakers and engaging in discussion at AIDS 2018 reminded me of my own childhood growing up in the poverty-stricken streets of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I realize now how lack of comprehensive sexual education affected my own decisions, created missed opportunities, and impacted my community.
Three key takeaways from my experience at AIDS 2018:
Reach men and boys to take up health services and take charge of their health and lives. Although we have made progress in reaching and empowering girls, our efforts will go in vain if we do not equally reach boys. The launch of MENSTAR, announced by Sir Elton John, is going to be a game changer.
Offer integrated comprehensive sexual reproductive health and rights services with HIV for adolescents and young people. Youth require HIV services as well as additional health services that will enable them to make informed decisions about their lives and plan for the future.
Adopt human-centered design that will resonate with communities, especially adolescents. This was the cherry on the ice cream for me, and was summed up by the empowering phrase for youth: “Nothing about us, without us.”
As programmers, we have been left with a challenge to go back to our communities and help build the change we want to see. I am super excited to be going back and implementing all that I have learned in my own country of Zimbabwe.
Find out more about Grassroot Soccer Zimbabwe here.