Making our DREAMS come true at ICASA 2015

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The International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) 2015, which took place in Harare, Zimbabwe, from 27th November to 4th December came at a critical moment for young women, with over 1,000 young women and adolescent girls newly acquiring HIV on a daily basis. It is time to halt this trend, and make women and girls the authors of their own destiny, strengthen their agency, enable them to make the decisions that will keep them HIV-free, or able to live full productive lives with HIV, and give them access to and control of the resources necessary to enact those decisions. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the UNAIDS bold ‘Fast Track’ targets; and the launch of PEPFAR’s ‘DREAMS’[1] programme, present an opportunity to do this. Investment in young women’s leadership, and in women’s civil society writ large is not an option; it’s an imperative. Consultation with women and girls needs to be integrated into every stage.

This ICASA, ATHENA Network hosted a Young Women’s Leadership Initiative in collaboration with The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and STOP AIDS NOW! as part of our Link Up project activities. Please see this short report that summarises our activities. As you will see, we had a really busy week, and we feel we brought strong messages on young women's leadership, rights and priorities to all corners of the conference and beyond. Thanks so much to everyone who helped support the effort, and most of all to our wonderful youth advocates, and the absolute stars of the show: Hewan, Selamawit, Yordanos, Mona, Riziki, Pacifique, Allen, Cindy and Robinah.