The First Lady, Mrs. Lordina Mahama, has urged her fellow first ladies in Africa to engage, mobilise, and empower adolescents on the continent as actors of social change in the fight against an HIV and AIDS epidemic.
The First Ladies, she said, should also work by maintaining HIV firmly on political agendas; and allowing young people to guide the way for concrete action”.
“We, as First Ladies, must continue to mobilise and endorse the voices of our Adolescent Champions, until each citizen appreciates the importance of protecting adolescent girls, ending gender norms and violence against girls,” Mrs. Mahama said.
“We must continue to advocate until our technocrats argue their way out of the “whys and how’s” of collecting, analysing and disaggregating data on adolescents for decision making.”
Speaking at a High Level Side Event of the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS, in New York, Mrs Mahama said: “By now, we should all agree that actively engaging adolescents in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of HIV policies, services and programs, is the way to go”.
The side event was attended by all the First Ladies in Africa, forming the Organisation of African First Ladies Association (OAFLA), and other development partners. They included the UNAIDS, UNFPA, Gates Foundation and the representatives of adolescents.
It was themed, “Breaking the Silos: Empowered Adolescent Girls at the Centre of the Response”.
Welcoming the delegates to the meeting, Mrs. Mahama, who is the President of OAFLA, said the Organisation would continue with its mission, with adolescent girls in particular, being at the heart of all its activities.
She said OAFLA will, therefore, continue to work for empowering and raising healthy, educated, confident and productive adolescents across the continent of Africa; and beyond.
Mrs. Mahama announced that the recent; “A United Continental “ALL-IN” Adolescent HIV Campaign”, launched at the 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health & Rights, which was hosted in Ghana by OAFLA, called for intensified efforts to prevent HIV infections, and AIDS-related deaths amongst adolescents, through the concerted advocacy of African First Ladies.
It also called for a vibrant and focused leadership of adolescents alongside the acceleration of country programs.
“OAFLA believes strongly that as we move towards the attainment of the short-term 90-90-90 HIV targets, and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we must all ensure, that no young girl or boy is left behind,” the First Lady noted.
The 90-90-90 program, forms part of UNAIDS global strategy of ensuring that by 2020, about 90 per cent of people would know their HIV status, while 90 per cent of those who are HIV positive would be on a sustained antiretroviral regime, with new infections reducing be 90 per cent.
Mrs. Mahama, therefore, urged her counterparts to make conscious efforts and commitment to address the needs of adolescents, saying the SDGs had provided a clear framework for focusing on adolescent girls across sectors such as Education, Health, Gender Equality, Reducing Inequalities, Partnership, among others.
“Furthermore, our Fast Track mode, for the AIDS response over the next five years, provides compelling justification to focus on adolescent girls,” she said.
“More especially, scaling up, and integrating HIV with sexual and reproductive health services, such as the various education and information platforms, condom programming and access to contraceptive services.”