As young people, we want you all to recognise our power

By Annah Sango

Annah Sango – who manages READY to Lead in Zimbabwe – took to the microphone at the Activism March ahead of the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, with a powerful and passionate speech to remind us of the talent, strength and conviction of young people to lead in the HIV response.

Annah Sango speechAnnah Sango speaking at the Community Activism March at the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam ©International AIDS Society/Matthijs Immink/IAS

There is so much power in people! So much power here today! As I look around and see the many faces around me, I am overwhelmed. So many passion, so much drive, so much power.

I am speaking on behalf of young people and adolescents participating in this important conference here in Amsterdam.

As young people, we want you all to recognise our power. To hear our voices, to listen to our ideas, to create space for us and at times to move over and give us some of your spaces so we can keep up and see through the fight to end AIDS.

The numbers of young people in the world are the biggest they have ever been. We are a mighty force, ready to act on HIV and on the social issues that are preventing us from making progress.

We want to see a world of love. We want to see all people accepted for who we are – for being young, for being gay, for being a transgender person. We want to see all people accepted for the choices they make as individuals – for choosing to use drugs, for choosing to be a sex worker, for choosing how we want to lead our relationships and lives. We want to provide information and support so we can all make our own choices, without fear of being judged, of being physically abused or of being excluded from society. It is this very fear and exclusion that is in the way of our efforts to end AIDS. It stops us from having open honest conversation about sex, about sexuality and about how we feel and what we want. So we hide, we stay away, we get sick and we die.

No more! We say no more! It is time to fight prejudice and to confront some of our beliefs and cultures head-on. To deny people their human rights is to deny that each of us is human and an individual making our own choices in life.

And we can fight prejudice if we work together in love, with courage and in the spirit of partnership towards the same common goal.

Comrades, as we work together in this conference and beyond, let us remember the talent, strength and conviction of young people to lead. We are ready to lead! We are fresh voices, making choices! Choices about the sexual and reproductive health information and services we want, and how we want to see them delivered. Together towards the end of AIDS is achieved by commitment, fighting prejudice and harnessing our fresh voices as young people. The battle is in motion! Onward together to collaborate, coordinate and conquer. Work with us, create spaces for us, if you are tired then move over and watch us lead. We are here and we are ready!

Annah Sango is the National Coordinator of Zimbabwe Young Positives (ZYP+), a network for and by young people living with HIV. Annah manages READY to Lead in Zimbabwe, a young women’s leadership and advocacy project, which is implemented by ZYP+, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, and ATHENA. Annah serves as an Alternate member on the Zimbabwean Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM); on the HIV Young Leaders Fund Board and the Y+ Advisory Board.