The 8th International Conference on Aids in Asia and the Pacific came to an end on the 23rd of August 2007. The conference hosts skills building workshops, planetary sessions and discussions on Aids in the Asia Pacific Region.
While there was 19 plenary speakers one only slot was allocated to youths to raise their issues. This raised the concerns that young people are still being neglected and forgotten. Most people speak about issues of Aids, yet not many are doing anything to help the young people. The closing remark by Ari Laksman, a youth, during the 8th ICCAP summaries the ignorance of leaders and academics about youth and thier issues.
*ICAAP YOUTH STATEMENT, August 23, 2007*
Delivered at the Closing Ceremony by Ari Yuda LaksmanaGood morning ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the youth who participated in the youth forum, I would like to make a statement.
I would like to ask young people in the room who participated in the Youth Forum of the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific to please stand, and remain standing during my remarks.
To the rest of you who are seated, I have a question for you. What is it like to live in a world without AIDS? All the people standing were born after the pandemic. We do not know a world without AIDS.
We are already responding in our own ways to HIV/AIDS. We are running programs, educating peers, pushing for social change and uniting in this fight around the world.
The value of our response has to be recognized as necessary, and mainstreamed.
We strongly urge you to begin viewing us as equal partners in the response to HIV/AIDS and to move beyond the rhetoric of youth participation by funding youth-led initiatives, engaging in true youth-adult partnerships and meaningfully involving young people in policy that affects our lives.
Therefore, we have laid out concrete steps to be taken to ensure the next
ICAAP, held in my country of Indonesia, builds on the process started here over the next two years and beyond.
We call upon those present here today to work with us to achieve the following in the next two years in Bali:
1. More than double the number of youth participants;
2. Include youth voices by providing space for a youth representative at the opening and closing ceremonies, ensuring a platform for youth to address all congress delegates. Future congresses should include representation for young people, including young people living with HIV/AIDS, in the different segments of the congress programme to provide for the youth perspectives on the different issues;
3. Develop a separate scholarship selection process for young people that address problems that youth face when applying to conference of this nature;
4. Provide support for a youth committee comprised of members from the previous ICAAP youth forums to create a clear process of coordination, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and hand-over of the Youth Forum;
5. Facilitate the meeting of youth at the Congress with high-level decision makers to advocate for youth-specific policy and to seek funding for their work;
6. Have a two-day youth pre-conference to discuss youth-issues of the region, network efficiently and adequately prepare youth to get the most out of ICAAP.
7. Technically and financially support the creation of a regional network of youth-run organizations working with youth.
Look around this room; what does that tell you about youth participation in this congress? Despite the fact that we comprise over half of all new infections, from the 19 plenary speakers at ICAAP, only “ONE” was a young person talking about youth issues.
For all the youth issues in the region and around the world, we had “ONE” chance to meaningfully address the entire congress had me speaking to you right now.
We were given only “ONE” day before the Congress to discuss, deliberate and strategize on all youth issues in all the countries that were represented here.
We stand firmly united against being tokenized on panels, relegated to abstract sessions and poster presentations, and denied funding to carry out our initiatives.
We hope that at the next ICAAP, we will not have to stand before you raising the same issues we are forced to raise again and again. We all know we need a great deal of CHANGE in the way we respond to AIDS in our region.
Many people think SOMEONE is doing something about the needs and concerns of youth and youth involvement; I did too until I saw the reality.
Constructive ways to ensure the momentum and successes of the previous 3 ICAAP youth forums in Melbourne, Kobe and now Colombo are sustained and expanded upon have already been raised with key conference organizers.
We will do all in our power and effort to ensure that a clear structure for planning, implementing and handing over the future ICAAP youth forums and programs is actioned and supported in full partnership with ALL ICAAP stakeholders. We hope that you’ll make it to the table; we will be there, waiting for you.
It is our hope that one day when we ask the youth of the room to rise, they will be the ones who have known a world without AIDS.
See you in Bali.
*Statement composed by youth from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India,
Australia, PNG, Japan and from the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS*