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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


Right to Know Initiative – Global

The Right to Know (RTK) Initiative is a global youth communication and outreach initiative designed to address the need for information, knowledge, and understanding of HIV/AIDS and related issues among young people around the world. Right to Know works closely with young people in an effort to transform information on HIV/AIDS and health into knowledge that will hopefully stay with young people throughout their lives. The initiative is based on the belief that young people need to know about the facts on HIV/AIDS and the ways to protect themselves and their peers. Essentially, they have a "right to know." However, all too few young people have access to this crucial information, particularly very vulnerable and hard-to-reach adolescents. UNICEF, along with UNFPA, WHO, UNESCO, and the World Bank, has identified sets of basic facts (incorporated into a guidebook known as the Facts) that constitute the minimum that every adolescent has a right to know. Right to Know is developing research-based national communication packages to convey these facts and work to assist youth in making informed decisions to prevent HIV infection and lead healthy lives. Also, the initiative creates links between information, life skills, youth-friendly services, and a supportive environment - a four-pronged strategy that has been shown to be necessary for fighting HIV/AIDS among young people.

Fourteen countries are currently participating in the RTK initiative: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cote d'Ivoire, FR Yugoslavia, FYR Macedonia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Thailand, and Zambia. While the initiative will take a different form in every country depending on each country's specific needs, several themes stand out and define the overall programme. These themes are:

  1. the centrality of youth participation
  2. positive, relevant messages as part of a communication strategy
  3. an emphasis on life skills through linkages with UNICEF and other organisational programmes
  4. the promotion of youth-friendly services through partnerships, and
  5. youth mobilisation and advocacy to help create supportive environments.



RTK is being implemented in three phases. During the first phase, young people and key players from civil society, the United Nations, and government are brought together to define the objectives of RTK in each country. Phase II, known as the Participatory Action Research (PAR) phase, identifies gaps and misperceptions in the existing framework of understanding among young people. The research will lead to country-adapted Facts guidelines that are most suited to the particular country context. PAR also helps to determine the most effective ways in each country to make use of the Facts and to share messages about HIV prevention with young people. Phase 2 will be followed by intensive communication strategies designed to fit to the life contexts of young people in the various countries (Phase 3). An important focus of RTK is developing RTK partnerships between youth, UN agencies, NGOs, and other organisations, as well as strengthening their capacity to plan and implement communication programmes.

Main Communication Strategies
Strategies will include the use of multimedia (television, radio, print, theatre) most popular among young people as well as interpersonal communication. These will be complemented by advocacy work and social mobilisation efforts, also tailored to be effective in every country. In each country the strategy will consist of at least the following components:

  • Programme communication: the consultative process of addressing knowledge, skills, and practices of specific groups of programme participants in order to develop and sustain those behaviours for prevention of HIV/AIDS and for optimum well-being of young people.
  • Advocacy: organisation and formulation of information to bring HIV/AIDS and other related adolescent issues and problems into the public domain for discussion and action.
  • Social mobilisation: bringing together all the intersectoral social partners to raise demand for and sustain progress toward the project goal. This will involve enlisting the participation of communities, social and religious groups, youth networks, and other institutions through dialogue, entertainment events, information dissemination, rallies, or whatever methods are deemed appropriate in the respective country.
  • Linkages to ensure that other programme elements necessary for a comprehensive approach are in place:
    • life-skills-based education for in-school and out-of-school youth
    • livelihood skills development
    • youth-friendly services, including peer counseling and access to condoms.

A global advocacy campaign is also being developed to bring the messages and methods of Right to Know to the global level. By engaging world leaders and mobilising widespread support, the global campaign will help put young people on government agendas, help increase funding for HIV/AIDS programmes, forge global and cross-sectoral alliances, and strengthen the global effort to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS among young people.



Development Issues
HIV/AIDS, Youth Health, Development and Protection, Substance Abuse, Gender, Sexuality, Life Skills, Knowledge, Participation, Children, Education, Health, Population, Rights, Technology, Women, Youth.

Key Points
In recent years, communities across the world have faced a disturbing fact: AIDS has become a disease of the young. Young people aged 15 to 24 are now the fastest growing group of AIDS victims, accounting for half of all new infections worldwide. However, these very same people hold the key to stopping the AIDS pandemic. UNICEF experience has shown that HIV/AIDS programmes that focus on youth, especially programmes that utilise a participatory approach, have a better chance of succeeding. By making young people key players in the design, evaluation, and implementation of HIV/AIDS communication strategies, the Right to Know initiative aims to develop effective ways to provide young people information about HIV/AIDS, and help them reduce their risk of HIV infection.

Making use of innovative new methods in social research, the initiative is built on a foundation of youth participation. The initiative places the key information-gathering efforts of the programme in each country in the hands of young people, organised into research teams and assisted by UNICEF and outside experts. This approach includes the following components:

  • Ensuring accuracy, timeliness, and efficacy: Strong youth participation will facilitate this. The Right to Know initiative operates based on what young people know and how they are influenced and motivated.
  • Empowering young people to speak for themselves.
  • Building capacity among young people: Specialised training in research methods, multimedia documentation, project planning and management, and other skills will stay with the youth researchers after they complete their service to the programme.
  • Generating youth action and empowerment: The simple act of inclusion sends a clear message of pride and self-confidence to young people in every programme country.
  • Placing young people in the driver's seat as active creators of knowledge and information instills a sense of ownership in every young person involved in the initiative.
  • Bringing adults into the programme: Youth participation also depends on the parents, teachers, religious leaders, and other adults whose influences shape the lives of young people.
  • Partners
    Other partners include young people themselves, youth groups, civil society organisations such as churches, parent and teacher organisations, and community leaders. In addition, UN and governmental and non-governmental agencies are included in RTK national planning and implementation.

    For more information, contact:
    Jude-Marie Alexis
    Manager, "Right to Know" Country Initiatives
    3 UN Plaza, Rm. 854
    New York, NY 10017, USA
    Tel.: 212-326-7000