Following the HEaids conference that was documented on this platform on the 10th of June, Activators once again descended at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban. This time the objective was to observe and articulate health issues that are at the forefront for the youth considering that June is Youth month, a historically significant month in the history of South Africa. The area of focus was specifically that of the burning issue of prevention and how everyone from various walks of life has a role to play in ensuring that the long-term goal of preventing the pandemic is achieved.
The event was attended by youth, prominent academics and researchers, prominent government officials, social activists, the LGBTIQ community and Activators. The conference mainly articulated preventative initiatives towards the pandemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, which are in multiple proportions highly problematic not only to the socio-economic livelihoods of the general population but the youth in particular. The conference also saw the groundbreaking initiative towards the LGBTIQ community. For the first time ever, we saw an introduction of a preventative initiative mainly concentrated on the LGBTIQ community. This initiative, along with others is aimed significantly at access to treatment and accentuating the treatment and preventative drive among the LGBTIQ community.
Presenting her research at the conference, Dr. Stephanie Berrada articulated the point that prevention should take a top-down approach rather than a bottom-up approach. To add on to this point she highlighted the fact that young women remain more vulnerable, stating that a significant proportion of young women continue to be infected from engaging in sexual activities with older men. This is an absolute contrast to younger men, who as backed by statistics, have a significantly lower risk of contracting the pandemic (in most cases young men only contract the pandemic from engaging on sexual activities with young women, who have already contacted the virus from older men). She further alluded to the fact that it was vital that initiatives continue to be put in place to address the sexual behavior of older men, specifically towards the young and vulnerable women as this would go a considerably long way in ensuring the long-term sexual safety of the youth and in the long-run ascertaining an HIV/AIDS generation.
Furthermore, the conference also featured the promotion of family planning and a significantly important topic of sexual debut. The representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) tackling these intertwined topics specified how important it was to continue to advocate for the delay of ayoung persons sexual debut (the stage at which one begins to indulge in sexual intercourse) as a vital tool to counter the proliferation of unplanned families. Not only would the delay of sexual activities promote effective family planning, it will go a long way in ensuring an HIV/AIDS free generation and serve as the most effective preventative measure in as far as HIV/AIDS and other satellite infections are concerned.
Activators present also had their impressions of the conference that took place. Action Setaka, an Activator hailing from the Free State province alluded to the fact that the conference was at the forefront of treating social factors holistically, and was impressed by the fact that the conference proved to be very much relevant to young people. On the conference headline, Setaka also mentioned that while the theme of the conference “the long walk to prevention: Every voice counts” is captivating and good, it was high time that initiatives were started to simultaneously focus on looking for the HIV/AIDS cure while also emphasising prevention. He based his reasons on the fact that there seems to be a huge money and capital based incentive, which is preventing the conclusive finding of the HIV/AIDS cure. He concluded by stating that while convenient solutions were highlighted such as the vaginal ring, incentives introduced at such conferences must be centered more on eradication initiatives.
Another Activator, Nkosikhona “Uzzi” Mpungose who is based in KwaZulu Natal and happens to be a Health Activist and a member of the Ethekwini AIDS Council-Youth Sector thought that the conference was very promising. He alluded to the fact that the conference offered practical solutions and that it was a great opportunity to collaborate with various leaders and leadership initiatives to reach a common goal for everyone involved. He was also left impressed by the fact that propagating the need for behavioral change amongst the youth was an effective preventative tool, as the partnership with the various stakeholders present would create a cohesive unit of understanding and establishing a cogent force that will fully address the health implications concerning the youth.