World AIDS Day (WAD) on 1st December 2020, one of the significant days for a AIDS free generation. This year the world AIDS day is quite different from previous years when the entire world is facing a new global challenge of novel coronavirus. From the 80s to 2020 it has been 40 years and still the whole world is suffering from the virus. At present HIV/AIDS situation makes youth and adolescents most vulnerable for their way of living and consequences of the disease. Prevention and protection must arise on the emergence of planning and implementation. To remark the day, SERAC-Bangladesh collected the perceptions and opinions of youth anonymously towards HIV/AIDS and COVID19.
In that survey, perceptions were collaged from the youth participants around HIV/AIDS and COVID19, SERAC-Bangladesh Program Officer, Tasnia Ahmed presented the survey findings where approximately 44% young people mentioned that there is a clear inter-linkage between HIV/AIDS and COVID19.
40 percent of young people feel that they are in risky conditions connected to HIV/AIDS. Because of this, 88 percent of young people consider that young people living with HIV/AIDS are facing unpredictable challenges including not being able to travel to health facility due to lockdown situation, they could not go outside due to the fear of getting infected, apprehension of double stigma if they get infected with COVID-19, limited stock of commodities supply and services at the facility, even somewhere the facility was closed or lack of adequate information and knowledge about using commodities or services and many more.
Also 95 percent of young people believe education and raising awareness, with accountability among policy makers and relevant stakeholders, and mobilizing media to share accurate information, engage with youth as partners in utilizing resources and improving quality of services, supporting youth as leaders in promoting equality and ending discrimination again persons living with HIV/AIDS, outreach services and commodities for youth and adolescents are some of their felt needs to combat HIV/AIDS together with Covid-19. They also stressed that these findings should be addressed and mentioned to reach policy makers on improving the present HIV/AIDS facilities for young people.
SERAC-Bangladesh Executive Director SM Shaikat shared during his speech that communities and youth voices are not heard enough and still the word of HIV is considered with high stigma among the mass people. Taboos and misconceptions occupy spaces and create barriers to move ahead. Although new scientific and innovation around treatment and clinical methods are coming. Bangladesh needs a long run to beat the stigma. People living with HIV need our support and care from family to live just as another regular person.
SERAC-Bangladesh program officer and International AIDS conference (IAC) youth ambassador Rokonol Rabbi said it is time to focus on increasing access to testing facilities and put urgency in reducing stigma and myth around AIDS in Bangladesh. People living with HIV and other marginalized communities yet left behind from the decision making table.
One of participants of the webinar, Tasfiah Bushra shared her positive support concern around lack of knowledge and ignorance around the virus. She also expressed the importance of sharing information and reaching out to more people with awareness programs and inclusive education system.
Tajkia Jahan, a disability rights youth activist urged to address take necessary actions to find out the concrete solution of combating HIV/AIDS and how young people with disability are vulnerable to both HIV and COVID19.
Hadiuzzaman, another participant shared that social stigma and the steps taken are still a mismatch. We need more knowledge about the virus and family support towards the communities.
Asif Ahammed, another participant stressed to increase the testing for tracking the disease so that proper and curable steps could be taken to ensure treatment for HIV positive people.
Around 40 youth participants from diversified areas joined in the discussion. Among them, SERAC-Bangladesh Program Director, Shahina Yasmin, Associate Program Officer Nusrat Sharmin Resma and Associate Program Officer Nahidur Rahman also joined the discussion.