Youth LEAD MOVES FORWARD WITH NEW STRATEGY 2016-2018
Bangkok, October 16, 2015- When Youth LEAD started in 2010 as a pilot project under the 7Sisters with support from UN partners, nobody anticipated that it would spark a movement of young key populations (YKP) in the Asia Pacific region. With 610,000 young people living with HIV in the region, over 9 in every 10 new infections in young people come from YKP (young men who have sex with other men, young transgender people, young people who sell sex, and young injecting drug users), there is a critical need for organizations like Youth LEAD who provide a unique platform on which YKP can voice out their issues and work collectively towards targets to eliminate new infections in the Asia Pacific Region.
Five years after its inception, Youth LEAD has begun to develop its second Strategic Plan covering 2016-2018. Reflecting inputs from an intensive consultation process, the Strategic Plan will address critical areas of advocacy and organizational development. In line with the theme of this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) “Youth LEAD Moving Forward”, the network aims to carry forward its strong advocacy agenda while making sure that the network remains sustainable and strong. “We are excited for this upcoming strategy. Youth LEAD strives to grow as a strong network of YKP in Asia Pacific with really targeted advocacy goals based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Updated UNAIDS Strategy, and the Global Fund Strategies,” says Thaw Zin Aye, Regional Coordinator of the Youth LEAD Secretariat, based in Bangkok. “It is crucial that our advocacy strategies are in-line with the new strategies and with the SDGs, but corollary to this must be a sturdy network that will ensure that our strategic directions are met,” she adds. These strategies were well-received by stakeholders from the UN and from regional network partners, who have provided additional insights on how to make the strategy more targeted to the changing face of the HIV epidemic among YKP. Strategic priorities are currently being finalized with the new Strategic Plan to be published by the end of 2015.
Apart from the Strategy, Youth LEAD members were also updated on current grant applications, as well as their financial status and governance structure. One of the stronger recommendations from the organization’s members was the need to finalize and formalize the new Governance Structure. A committee comprising of Youth LEAD Focal Points from five sub-regions was composed. They will review the new Governance Handbook and make any final changes required. Sandeep Shahi, focal point coordinator from Nepal and a member of the Governance Committee, commented on the process: “We saw at the AGM how focal points are starting to step up and own the network. With this Governance Committee, we see the commitment that focal points have in making sure that Youth LEAD is grounded towards the needs and concerns of its focal point members.” Nancy Zhang, Chair of the Youth LEAD Board and Focal Point Coordinator from China adds, “with this strong focal point participation, we are now gearing towards a more well-coordinated network, with more focus towards ending the AIDS epidemic in the Asia and Pacific region by 2030.”
Youth LEAD is grateful to its friends, partners and stakeholders, who have supported them since conception, with special thanks to Robert Carr Network Fund, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNAIDS for making the 2015 AGM possible and for their continued support and encouragement.
Youth LEAD is a regional network of and for young key populations most affected by HIV. By emphasizing leadership, education, advocacy, and personal and community development, Youth LEAD strives to accelerate and advance HIV prevention, promote equal sexual and reproductive health rights, and to advocate for positive change in access to comprehensive health and social services. Youth LEAD’s members are drawn from young cohorts of men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who inject drugs, as well as young people living with HIV and young women. Youth LEAD aims to cultivate leadership among key affected populations to improve youth involvement in community, national and regional policy and programming processes.
Website: www.youth-lead.org; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Youth-LEAD/389035624446055
 Prepared by www.aidsdatahub.org based on UNAIDS 2013 Estimates for UNAIDS. (2014). The Gap Report.
 Report of the Commission on AIDS in Asia. Redefining AIDS in Asia: Crafting an Effective Response (2008), p. 146