Publication Date

The purpose of this document from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is to provide guidance to programme designers, implementers, policymakers, and decision makers on how to meaningfully engage adolescents in the AIDS response and in broader health programming. It demonstrates why adolescents and youth are critical in efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and highlights what steps should be taken to implement programmes and policies that improve adolescent health outcomes (including for HIV) at the national, regional, and global levels.

Having offered evidence related to adolescents and HIV and laid out why is it important to engage adolescents and youth, the document outlines 6 principles of meaningful collaboration with adolescents and youth:

  1. Adults who engage with adolescents should follow ethical and participatory practices and pursue the best interests of adolescents. Transparency, honesty, and accountability are needed if the participation of adolescents is to be genuine and meaningful.
  2. Participatory work should include groups of adolescents who typically experience discrimination or those who are often excluded from activities (including adolescent girls, adolescent key populations, and adolescents living with HIV).
  3. To enable participation, adolescents should experience a safe, welcoming, inclusive and encouraging environment, including conducive legal and policy frameworks for accessing services for sexual and reproductive health and HIV.
  4. Adults working with adolescents are committed to consulting with adolescents, and they are trained and supported to carry out gender-sensitive and participatory practices.
  5. A multisectoral response means involving all sectors of society: governments, businesses, philanthropy, civil society organisations, academia, media, communities and people living with HIV. Attention to detail and how to ensure the language is friendly to adolescents is essential for clear and effective communication.
  6. Meaningful participation requires engaging adolescents as equal partners in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of programmes and policies.

As part of the All In! work stream (see Related Summaries, below) and Engaging adolescents as agents of social change - and through consultation with adolescents from All In! countries - guidelines have been suggested as a way of ensuring meaningful adolescent participation to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. They are shared in the document. For example, programme implementers should keep in mind that adequate training and support for adolescents and youth are essential: "Hire experienced implementing partners and M&E [monitoring and evaluation] personnel who have expertise in working with adolescents, and can enhance adolescents' assertiveness, training, negotiation and communication skills, strengthening the engagement of young people and adolescents in policies and programmes." For policymakers or decision-makers, suggestions include, for example: Ensure adoption of gender-sensitive indicators for monitoring and measuring work with adolescents. Tips for keeping adolescents involved and for community empowerment of adolescent key populations include ideas such as: Engage creative and innovative adolescent- and youth-led activities and promote social media campaigns.

General recommendations are also offered. For instance, community-wide youth development efforts see the engagement of parents or caregivers as essential to their work. Parents can engage in a wide array of activities, including one-on-one interaction, support groups, and participatory workshops. "The involvement of parents, however, takes time and sustained effort." In sub-Saharan Africa, where the adolescent HIV epidemic is most severe, communication between caregivers and adolescents (when it occurs) tends to be authoritarian, complicated by taboos about sexuality. It also is hampered by incomplete knowledge on both sides. To that end, one section of the document focuses on strengthening communication between guardians and adolescents.

Case studies of meaningful youth participation (with contact information for follow-up communication) include: (i) a country case study: ACT!2015 Zimbabwe; (ii) a regional case study: Youth LEAD; and (iii) a global case study: the PACT. Links to additional related resources and tools complete the document.


United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) website, January 31 2017. Image credit: UNICEF East Asia and Pacific