Youth-led networks at the frontline of the HIV and SRH response

Building capacity and strengthening leadership

Members of the Mulanje Teen Club enjoy a debate and discussion around some of the challenges youth in Malawi are facing.
23 February 2022

One lesson has emerged clearly from the HIV epidemic: We will not reach global HIV prevention and treatment goals without prioritizing adolescents.

Adolescents and young people are at the center of the HIV epidemic in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). An estimated 1.74 million adolescents (15-19 years) are living with HIV in ESA, representing 60 per cent of the global total, and adolescent girls and young women (15-24 years) comprise 26 per cent of all new HIV infections in the region.

Throughout the ESA region adolescents and young people living with HIV (AYPLHIV) are rightfully demanding a voice in the policies and programmes that affect their lives. They are also demonstrating leadership in advocating for improved HIV and sexual and reproductive health services and providing crucial information and support to their peers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanding the reach and influence of AYPLHIV, however, requires dedicated investment.

Ground Up! is a UNICEF ESA Regional Office and Y+ Global collaboration, made possible with support from the Government of Sweden as part of the Joint UN 2gether 4 SRHR.

Ground Up! aims to the capacity of AYPLHIV networks throughout ESA. Following a rapid survey, Ground Up! identified networks in Eswatini, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe identified gaps for targeted support in strategic planning, resource mobilization, strengthening partnerships, developing communications products, youth-led advocacy, and supporting the needs of their constituents. The networks meet virtually every month to share challenges, resources, and ideas for collaboration. They are also receiving one-on-one virtual technical assistance from Y+ experts in areas such as governance, management human resources and social media use.

“The technical support came in handy. We have improved on our resource mobilization technique and we are starting with the Ground Up! work: organizing documents, understanding the donor's needs and ensuring we have great positioning while applying for grants.”

Network member, ENYP+, eSwatini

Webinars, social media live events, sharing advocacy strategies and learning opportunities, and an online repository of resources are just some of the digital approaches Ground Up! is using to provide virtual support to AYPLHIV networks throughout the region. Over two years, Ground Up! will build upon these platforms to strengthen the networks.

“Sessions like this should be made frequent as they support to improve our understanding of advocacy, gaining ideas on how to advocate effectively and getting motivated to start the advocacy journey.”

Network member, YWEN, Namibia

An individual adolescent or young person living with HIV in ESA may feel that their opinion doesn’t matter. Ground Up! is changing that by connecting youth-led networks and providing opportunities for AYPLHIV to be part of a movement that are at the front and center of the HIV response.

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