The Funders Concerned About AIDS Annual Summit theme this year could not be reemphasized enough, we need to Reignite the Fight. Thirty years down the line in the HIV response there is a lot has been done and somehow we became comfortable not to follow up on where we are in the fight. When we still have trouble getting people to test for their HIV status and especially adolescent girls and young women leave alone disclose their status even to their partners, we know we missed a mile or two somewhere. It is the time to dance backwards as one of the speakers said in the summit.
Dancing backwards starts the conversations like who are the ones who have been left behind and without a doubt adolescent girls and young women(AGYW) have. We might find this strange since there are many programs for women and girls in every country more so in developing ones like Kenya. The question remains, why then the high rise of new HIV infections and AIDS related death among them. And I ask, how many of the programs have we had the AGYW at it’s formulation to it’s implementation? I am sure very few or none at all. If the AGYW are only considered as beneficiaries and not as decision makers yet these programs are to impact their lives, how are they then formulated to ensure they address their needs yet they don’t inform the programs and how they are structured.
Their is a saying that maybe has never sunk in, ‘give a fish to a person and give them forever or teach a person to fish and watch them feed themselves and others.’ Until the AGYW are seen as equal partners capable of identifying what works and what do not work FOR THEM, then we will keep giving them fish everyday as we continue wondering why they are not having enough. Women groups and community organisation have for the longest time been considered inferior yet it is at the grassroots where it all happens. This is where there are new infections, AIDS related deaths ,poverty, teen pregnancies and the list goes on and on. Then why are the leaders from these organisations not on the decision tables? Why are we making the policy documents and information platforms so complicated with jargon that even PHD holders who are not in the response can not fathom? Why are we making the response language for a chosen few, don’t we see this is where we began leaving us behind? When we began having meetings in boardrooms that a community person has to take 3 public means vehicles and a motorbike ride just to get there, don’t we see this is when we distanced ourselves with the real issues? How does she get to the meeting looking like after all that hustle and bustle? Or when invited in a foreign country for a meeting and not supported in terms of booking a room and how to navigate in a foreign country to the venue? And when she is invited and not given a chance to speak since more “important people” are to speak how does this affect her esteem even as she goes back to lead? Let’s not even get into the details of communication and how this looks for the AGYW but you can keep having webinars and writing emails that are responded to after three days when one goes to a cyber rather than exploit social media or text messaging. What about funding where you need three years financial audits when you have never been supported.
These are only some of the miles we never covered because the run on this side was a steep slope and now we have to be accountable. I am hoping in the upcoming UNAIDS Global HIV Prevention Coalition (http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2017/towards-global-HIV-prevention-coalition-and-road-map ) AGYW groups and community based organisation and all other interventions formation will ensure that we are not left behind. That we are in the decision tables being capacity built at the same time shaping the programs with our voice.
By Lucy Wanjiku Njenga