Mali Youth Summit on HIV
On Saturday April 16 Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit attended the Global Youth Summit on HIV held in the capital of Mali, Bamako, where she gave a speech to over 100 young leaders from all over the world.
The conference was organised under the auspices of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Crown Princess Mette-Marit has been involved in the work of UNAIDS since 2006 in her capacity as their Special Representative. As well as participating at the conference the Crown Princess visited a small clinic in one of the citys poorest areas.
The Mali Youth Summit on HIV focused on rallying a youth-led response to the problem of HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS is seeking to take advantage of the great potential of young people involved in fighting the spread of the HIV virus. At the weekend young leaders from all over the world met to discuss new solutions based on their experiences. The conference was opened by President of Mali Amadou Toumani Touré.
The summit also provided a forum for presenting good examples of the achievements of young people in various countries and coordinating the efforts of youth organisations. A range of workshops was organised to provide the young leaders with the tools they need to make themselves heard and to enable them to continue the fight on their own terms and make demands on the authorities in their own countries.
The summit also formed part of the lead-up to the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS to be held in June. The results of the Mali Youth Summit on HIV will be incorporated into the basis for many of the discussions at the New York meeting as an integral component of the strategy for fighting AIDS in the years ahead.
In her speech the Crown Princess emphasised the fact that it is young people who hold the key to finding the answers and who must be given a voice. She gave several examples of situations where young people have shown courage and commitment in mobilising broad support through social media:
My message to you is: When you experience lack of core funding, lack of data on young people, lack of personal rights or lack of access to treatment, use your courage, use your ideas and start your own social movements. Use your networks to create a momentum so that our leaders can't afford not to listen. Make them so powerful that world leaders cannot neglect them.
However, the Crown Princess went on to stress that the social media are merely a tool. Ideas and courage lie at the heart of any movement.
Visit to a local clinic
The Crown Princess also visited a small clinic specialising in sexual health in one of Bamakos poorest districts, together with Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé. The clinic is a low-threshold facility whose services are free-of-charge.
At the clinic, where every inch of the less than 70 square metres of premises are utilised to the full, local inhabitants can receive information about HIV/AIDS, training in the use of contraceptives and free HIV testing. For those already infected it is a place where they can come for support, medication and other follow-up care.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit also met with two of the clinics active users, a young female prostitute and a homosexual boy. Through her conversations with them the Crown Princess was given insight into the everyday life of a young female prostitute in Mali and learned how the good advice at the clinic in all likelihood had prevented the homosexual boy from becoming part of the worrying statistics.
Call to Action
A major outcome of the summit was a Call to Action, demanding new leadership in the AIDS response: Mali Call to Action