Across the Asia-Pacific region an estimated half a million young people aged 15-24 are living with HIV. 95% of all new infections are among young key populations at higher risk from the virus, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and those who inject drugs.
An initiative called New Generation (NewGen) Asia aims to develop the capacity of the next generation of young leaders from key populations to get their voices heard and their needs met in national and regional HIV programmes. The initiative engages young people as leaders rather than participants and empowers them through a multi-pronged capacity-development programme.
UNESCO and other members of the Asia-Pacific Inter Agency Task-Team for Young Key Affected Populations launched NewGen Asia on Saturday 27 August in Busan, South Korea at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia-Pacific (ICAAP). The Long Table Launch Luncheon brought together 30 high-level mentors and young leaders, predominantly from key affected populations.
The mentors are drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds, such as civil society, the United Nations, government and young people who already have strong leadership experience. The mentors include, for example: Sunil Pant, Member of Nepal Parliament and founder of Nepal’s first LGBT rights organization, Blue Diamond Society; Vince Crisostomo, Regional Coordinator at Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS; and Kaythi Win, Chairperson Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers and a deputy director for PSI Myanmar.
Milinda Rajapaksha, a young mentee from Sri Lanka it is excited about the programme and the opportunities presents for him and other young people. “It is time to transform the leadership. From myself to my young colleagues and from adults to young people. The NewGen programme will give me an opportunity not just to share my experiences and skills but to learn from people I look up to. It has created an avenue to make leadership transformation systematic and sustainable.”
During the lively lunch, mentors and mentees discussed their backgrounds and expectations and planned various activities they will engage in over the coming year. All agreed that the transferring of skills and knowledge from one generation of leaders to the next would be a two-way learning and sharing exercise. The event also provided an opportunity for the launch of a five day leadership course for young people from key affected populations and those working with them.
The programme has been developed and delivered by a team of technical experts from YouthLEAD, a regional network of members of key groups committed to advancing HIV prevention, with support from UNESCO and other members of the Asia-Pacific Inter Agency Task-Team for Young Key Affected Populations. It is hoped that the multi-pronged NewGen Asia initiative will reap clear benefits in increasing the effective engagement of key affected populations in the Asia-Pacific region who are bearing the brunt of the AIDS epidemic.
The Director of UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Education, Mr Gwang-Jo Kim, commented on the significance of this initiative: “Young people – in particular those most affected by HIV and AIDS – are critical to efforts to halt and reverse the spread of the epidemic. The NewGen Asia initiative is an important contribution to ensuring a new generation of leaders and a regional response which is dynamic, sustainable and effective.”
The Asia-Pacific Inter Agency Task-Team for Young Key Affected Populations aims to strengthen consensus and collaboration among UN agencies and key INGO partners at regional and country level to support Governments and civil society in accelerating action to achieve the global and national targets to reduce HIV transmission among young key affected populations. Currently convened by UNICEF and the Save the Children, the Task Team includes as members: AIDS Project Management Group (APMG), Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS (7 Sisters), International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Save the Children, UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNODC, WHO, Youth LEAD housed at 7 Sisters, and the World AIDS Campaign (WAC).
NewGen Asia: Helping young leaders find their voice (UNAIDS website)