Sexual and reproductive health and rights information, education and evidence-informed data are key to ensuring that young people know how to protect themselves from HIV and access HIV testing and treatment. This was the main message from an event—Breaking Down Barriers to Youth Empowerment—organized by the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations in Geneva and UNAIDS and held on 24 May, on the sidelines of the 70th World Health Assembly.
The event provided a platform for young people to be at the centre of the discussion, with a call to double efforts in scaling-up and ensuring adequate access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights information.
The participants noted that access to clear, accurate and evidence-informed information and education supports the capacity of young people to protect their health, rights and dignity and to stand up to discrimination and violence. It also serves as a critical stepping stone for accelerating socioeconomic growth and progress. Yet, there are major barriers and challenges that must be addressed.
In many settings, access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information is constrained by legal and policy barriers, such as parental consent requirements for adolescents and youth to access services, including HIV testing. In countries with high levels of early and forced marriage, spousal consent requirements also put young women and girls at increased risk of HIV infection.
The participants concluded that limited access to accurate, high-quality, evidence-informed information, education and data on sexual and reproductive health and rights jeopardizes young people’s health and survival.
“YOUTH FACE THE GREATEST HEALTH BARRIERS. ONLY BY AND WITH THE MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENT OF HEALTHY CITIZENS CAN WE UNLEASH THE FULL POTENTIAL OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST YOUTH GENERATION AND BUILD HEALTHY, PROSPEROUS AND SUSTAINABLE SOCIETIES THAT DRIVE PROGRESS AND DEVELOPMENT NOW AND FOR THE FUTURE.”
“YOUTH ENGAGEMENT, REINFORCED BY SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS ADVOCACY AND A STRONG EVIDENCE BASE, ARE THE KEYS TO A PROGRESSIVE FUTURE. IN RESPONSE TO EXISTING GLOBAL HEALTH BARRIERS, YOUNG PEOPLE ACROSS THE WORLD SHOULD BE EMPOWERED TO CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO.”
“INFORMATION ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS SAVES LIVES. THE MORE CONSTRAINTS YOUNG PEOPLE FACE IN ACCESSING INFORMATION, THE MORE WE RISK AN UPSURGE OF NEW HIV INFECTIONS, AIDS-RELATED DEATHS AND HIV-RELATED STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION.”