LONDON — On July 10, HIV/AIDS advocate Prince Harry visited the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he met with innovators in the field of health in the developing world and led a roundtable discussion focusing on aiding youth suffering from HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. The event was sponsored by Sentebale, an organization co-founded by Prince Harry, that assists young people infected with HIV/AIDS in Lesotho and Botswana.
The discussion is part of Sentebale’s Let Youth Lead initiative, which enables young people from Lesotho and Botswana to advocate on behalf of their peers to ensure that they are included in AIDS-related policies. Youth advocates also discuss the difficulties associated with treating young people infected with HIV/AIDS and encourage needed HIV/AIDS education programs.
Youth advocate Kananelo Khalla, a young man from Lesotho who is HIV-positive, said during the discussion that his vision is to keep the next generation of his country alive. Ts’epang, another Sentebale youth advocate, found that most of the HIV services she experienced were not youth friendly. She believes that this is a reason many young people in her country do not seek the health services they need.
The discussion at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was attended by global leaders in HIV/AIDS prevention including representatives from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the International AIDS Society.
Professor Peter Piot, the Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the founding Executive Director of UNAIDS, noted at the event that young people need to be involved in the entire process of AIDS prevention.
HIV/AIDS advocate Prince Harry spoke about how absurd it was that today young people still are not educated about HIV/AIDS until it is too late.
Attendees of the discussion agreed to focus on young people when forming HIV policy.
Co-founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006, Sentebale is focused on alleviating the struggles of children living in Lesotho and Botswana who are victims of both extreme poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Sentebale provides education, psychosocial support and care so that those they help can live prosperous lives.
Lesotho, a former British colony, is best known as the country that is completely surrounded by South Africa. However, the country has an average life expectancy of 53 years and has the second highest HIV infection rate at 22.73 percent. The other country receiving aid from Sentebale, Botswana, has an HIV infection rate of 22.21 percent.
Sentebale aims to take down the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS that is preventing many young people in sub-Saharan Africa from accessing care. Their goal by 2020 is to operate in five sub-Saharan countries and for all youth to know and manage their HIV status.
Roundtable discussions like the one held this July help Sentebale achieve that goal. With leadership from advocate Prince Harry and other HIV/AIDS activists from around the world, Sentebale will continue its work in advocating for youth from sub-Saharan Africa so that young people can have access to the resources they need in order to live with HIV/AIDS.
– Sean Newhouse