JOHN MUTSAMBI writes: The voices that must be heard this week are those most affected by HIV: adolescent girls, young women and others at high risk of contracting HIV. We advocates must take advantage of the multiple platforms at the conference to demand that their needs for HIV prevention, care and treatment are prioritised. Human rights should be at the centre of these demands.
At a stakeholder consultation meeting, an adolescent girl remarked, “We have a problem of unwanted pregnancies and a greater risk of getting HIV. We need contraceptive services and ways to protect ourselves from infection to be available in schools because we find it very challenging to seek services at our local clinics. The nurses there embarrass us by asking why we need condoms or contraceptives.”
A sex worker said “We are often harassed by the police and arrested for loitering and for soliciting sex. Our condoms and ARVs are sometimes confiscated as evidence.”
Let us also advocate for the voices of communities to be heard. We must work closely with them to identify ethical issues when setting priorities for HIV prevention, care and treatment.
In order to make an impact at the conference, we must be united. To quote Helen Keller: "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”