XVIII International AIDS Conference


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Jamaican youth speak out: mobilizing youth and advocating for change to address HIV in the context of sexual and reproductive health and right

A.-K. Rowe, O. Edwards, J. Nelson

Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, Kingston, Jamaica

Issues: The Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) represents a diverse group of youth in Jamaica. Currently, the organization's projects include advocacy for young people's access to youth-friendly reproductive health programmes, including comprehensive HIV prevention and education.
Description: JYAN partners with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, & Malaria and Advocates for Youth in executing two projects, the Sex Ed, Best Said Project to provide comprehensive sex education in schools and the International Youth Speak Out (iYSO) project, where a council of eight young people lobby policymakers, work with the media, mobilize youth, engage in digital outreach and communications on www.amplifyyourvoice.org, and share best practices with young people in the U.S., Ethiopia, and Nigeria.
Lessons learned: Through the Sex Ed, Best Said project, JYAN recognizes that youth are faced with many issues that prevent them from making responsible decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health, which include pressure from peers to engage in unprotected sex, dealing with masculinity that often hinders young women's empowerment, and confronting misogynistic and homophobic lyrics in dancehall music.
Through the iYSO Project, JYAN learned that there is need for consistent policy review by young people and that new policies must be created to better serve their interests. Increased meaningful youth participation in policy and decision-making bodies is urgently required to confront young people's vulnerability to HIV
Next steps: The youth council will continue to advocate for the following recommendations: more clear-cut policy decisions regarding access to contraceptives by minors; the allocation of a budget line to youth-specific reproductive and sexual health; the institutionalization of youth participation in the planning, implementation, and regulation of youth sexual reproductive health programmes; and the continuation of national education and sensitization against all forms of stigma and discrimination.

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