The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) will host a meeting of youth leaders from 19 Caribbean countries on April 21 and 22, 2017 in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
The focus of the forum will be a discussion on the role of youth in the national and regional response to HIV and AIDS; participants will also be involved in formulating and agreeing on a framework for regional youth advocacy.
Senator Robert Browne, minister of health, wellness and the environment, St Vincent and the Grenadines and chair of the executive board of PANCAP, will deliver the keynote address at the opening ceremony on Friday, April 21.
The participating countries include Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The event will facilitate in-depth discussions about sexual health issues affecting young people and the barriers to accessing sexual health services. The meeting will also seek to identify what knowledge and tools they require to protect themselves from HIV.
The meeting will also provide an update on the new strategic directions required for ending the AIDS epidemic. Youths will discuss their role in the national and regional response and agree on the key elements of a framework for regional youth advocacy.
Dr Astell Collins, PANCAP Youth Advisor
PANCAP youth advisor, Dr Astell Collins, explained that the meeting will be pivotal for creating a strategy for youth leaders to implement in responding to the range of challenges facing young people with regard to sexual health and HIV and AIDS.
“Young people, especially among key populations (KPs), in the Caribbean are disproportionately at risk of HIV infection,” Collins stated. “They face greater barriers to accessing prevention services. HIV prevalence remains high among key populations such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, and young people.
“At the same time challenges regarding stigma and discrimination, violations of human rights and gender-based violence continue to hinder access to services for young people in general. Hence, there is a need to work more systematically with young people belonging to KPs who experience greater challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health services.”
Youth leaders from each of the KPs will be represented at the meeting.
The meeting, which is funded by the Global Fund and PAHO, forms part of a wider intervention programme created by PANCAP for Youth Advocacy. The programme also includes youth advocacy training, facilitating youth leaders’ participation in high-level meetings to influence policy decisions affecting youth and the development of a regional youth advocacy network.
The meeting of youth leaders, the first of these initiatives to be implemented, will be held annually for the next three years.
PANCAP is a Caribbean regional partnership of governments, regional civil society organisations, regional institutions and organisations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners which was established on 14 February 2001. PANCAP provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, coordinates the response through the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS to maximise efficient use of resources and increase impact, mobilises resources and build capacity of partners.