Meet Jackie: a global advocate for young women living with HIV

“I was 17 years old when my baby died,” says Jacquelyne Alesi from Uganda. “I thought that HIV...would not happen to me but I accepted I should be tested. That was ten years ago. Since I discovered my HIV status, I have mentored many other young people about the virus. I am proof that there is hope; you can come out of these things. They can see that I’ve gone back to school, that I am happily married and that I have a child that is free from HIV. They say ‘Jackie picked herself up and made a life for herself’.”

Jackie does not just talk to people locally in her country. She is passionate about representing the views of young women living with HIV and attends global conferences to advocate for human rights. “I hope I can be part of a new wave of leaders who are able to advocate for the sexual health needs of young people and help tackle the stigma which prevents them accessing the services they need,” she says.

Under the umbrella of the Link Up project, Jackie attended the International Conference on Family Planning in Ethiopia in November 2013. “I have reached a time where I want to share my experiences with the rest of the world – as a youth mentor and as a woman living with HIV,” she says.

Jackie has an impressive CV as a global youth advocate. As well as her work for the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV, she represents young people on the National Forum of People Living with HIV Networks in Uganda, and sits on Y+ (an initiative of the Global Network of People Living with HIV). She is the Special Youth Observer to the UNAIDS Lancet Commission on Global Health. She is also the focal person for the ATHENA Network in Uganda. It is through ATHENA, a global policy partner in the Link Up Project, that she has been given the opportunity to attend the Family Planning Conference.

Our work to support young global advocates

We do our best to support young people who have the desire to become global advocates for HIV. The Alliance supported five young people to participate in the International Family Planning Conference in Ethiopia and we co-organised a closed think tank meeting of young people. We organised a side event shared findings on the priorities of young people affected by HIV, with responses from UNAIDS, the African Union, and the Dutch SRHR ambassador.

At the European Development Days in 2013 we organised a well-attended High Level Panel on ‘Defeating AIDS, advancing Global Health’ that also included Jacqueline Alesi from Uganda. At the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board we supported Cedric Nininahazwe, from the National Network of young people living with HIV in Burundi (RNJ+), to speak and participate. At the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), the Alliance led innovative sessions in the ‘meet and greet’ space. Parliamentarians held discussions with community leaders in the café, and with the aid of new technology, 120 young people affected by HIV from six countries joined plenary sessions and workshops.

The Alliance also participated in the 2013 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) conference under the banner of ‘for us and with us’. We showed how young people and adolescents can get involved in HIV programming. We also supported six young Africans to attend the youth pre-conference and to be active in the Women’s and Human Rights Networking Zones.

Useful information: family planning and HIV for young people facts and figures.

“I hope I can be part of a new wave of leaders who are able to advocate for the sexual health needs of young people.”

— Jacquelyne Alesi