In December, Chan Aye San, youth advocate and ATHENA focal point in Myanmar, visited the UK to participate in a panel discussion in parliament on World AIDS Day. As well as representing ATHENA in Link Up, Chan Chan works as an outreach worker for Radanar Ayar in Myanmar, and is a youth advocate at Alliance Myanmar, and a member of the Myanmar Youth Stars, a network of young people most affected by HIV (key populations). With so many responsibilities, Chan Chan was well-placed to share insights with UK parliamentarians and advocate for the rights of young people living with and affected by HIV.
Chan Chan describes her experiences on her UK visit in a fantastic blog: http://www.aidsalliance.org/blog/674-sharing-my-experiences-in-myanmar-with-the-uk-parliament
In the blog, she highlights the value of creating space and platforms for youth advocates to share their own stories and strategies for action, saying:
“A common barrier for all young key populations is stigma and discrimination shown by health care providers as well as from the community members. In order to end this we need to empower young key populations and also raise awareness in the community and inform the health care providers.”
During her visit Chan Chan also met with Lord McConnell, a peer in the UK House of Lords, who she previously met when he visited Myanmar. Lord McConnell invited her to meet in the House of Lords and as well as discussing the current situation in Myanmar and her advocacy activities, gave her a tour of the historical building.
In her speech in the UK parliament, Chan Chan shared her own experiences of having to leave her home and family in order to access HIV treatment, and described how barriers including stigma and discrimination, inadequate and inaccessible health and treatment services and requirements for parent or guardian permission to access treatment prevent young people from key populations from accessing the services they need. She praised the role of the Global Fund in supporting young people to access treatment, and called on the UK government to continue their support for the Global Fund. She also called for the Myanmar government to include young people from key populations in policy and planning and to support their meaningful participation in SDG implementation.