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MBABANE, Swaziland - On the 13th of April, 2016 young people from all four regions of Swaziland gathered at the Royal Swazi Convention Center, to make their voices heard at a national youth HIV prevention dialogue – a dialogue aimed at soliciting the ideas of young people on how HIV prevention interventions can be tailored to best meet the specific and unique needs of adolescents and young people. Preceding the national dialogue were regional consultative meetings with adolescents and youth people, to gather their views to feed into the national discourse. Aptly themed “#MyVoiceIndaba”, the National HIV Prevention Indaba was a collaborative effort by the Ministry of Health, National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS (NERCHA) and UNAIDS, with financial and technical support from UNFPA, UNICEF and PSI.

The same occasion also provided a platform for young people to meet and deliver their message on HIV prevention to the UNAIDS Executive Director and Under-Secretary of the United Nations, Mr Michel Sidibe, who was on two day mission to Swaziland, the Acting Prime Minister Senator Paul Dlamini, Minister of Health Senator Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane. Others who were in attendance were UN Resident Coordinator Israel Dessalegne, Deputy Resident Coordinator Kabiru Nasidi, UNFPA Representative Sharareh Amirkhalili, WHO Representative Tigest Ketsela Mengestu, US Ambassador to Swaziland Lisa Peterson, UNAIDS Representative Tim Rwabuhemba, WFP Representative Alberto Correira Mendes and UNICEF Representative Rachel Odede. Also present were Chiefs and Regional Administrators from the four regions of the country and leaders of civil society organisations. 

National dialogue a transformative action that is ensuring that young people are not just passive beneficiaries but are active game changers - UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe

Her Royal Highness Princess Sikhanyiso was a guest speaker at the event, and in her remarks she appealed to youth people to delay sex, and encouraged them to prioritize the achievements of their academic goals, as these were the key to sustainable development. Speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, Dr Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini, the Acting Prime Minister, Senator Paul Dlamini, made specific mention of the demographic dividend, in his introductory remarks. He noted that “Swaziland is one of the few countries in Africa that is experiencing a demographic transition which presents a window of opportunity for great economic prosperity provided appropriate macroeconomic and social policies are fully implemented. The Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland is fully committed in harnessing this window of opportunity, which comes once in a lifetime.” He further assured the audience that the voices of the young people have been heard and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to ensuring that policies that address their concerns are put in place and implemented.

Making his address during the National Youth HIV Prevention Indaba, UNAIDS Executive Director. Mr Michel Sidibe, recalled the early days of the country’s HIV and AIDS response and applauded the Government and all partners for the strides it has made. He also commended the country for organising the national youth dialogue, describing it as a transformative action that is ensuring that young people are not just passive beneficiaries of Government action but are active game changers.

Young people made presentations during the Indaba voicing out their views on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues affecting them and on possible solutions to address these. They requested parents to talk to them early about issues of sexuality, and appealed to the Ministry of Health to ensure that sexual and reproductive health services are not only accessible but also youth-friendly. They also stated the need for the provision of an age-specific and evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education curriculum to be delivered to both in-school and out-of-school youth.

During the same event local hip hop artist, who is also featured in the regional Safeguard Young People music project “We Will” music album, Thamsanqa aka KrTC, brought the house down with his astounding performance of “Jack & Jill” one of the songs in the album. He also presented HRH Princess Sikhanyiso with a “We Will” CD.