New UNAIDS report sounds the alarm on young women & girls

In the lead up to World AIDS Day (December 1st) UNAIDS has released a new report, sounding the alarm on the degree to which young women and girls are disproportionately affected by HIV & AIDS.

The report confirms something our partner organizations have been telling us for some time: the ages between 15 and 24 years old are an extremely dangerous time for young women. According to its findings, girls between the ages of 15 and 19 account for up to 90% of new HIV infections among 10-19 year olds in many sub-Saharan African locations.

“What lies at the bottom of all this - as always - is misogyny. It's the pox of this world... No one should misunderstand the truth that gender equality, and the struggle for equality, remains the most important issue on the planet.”

—Stephen Lewis

A triple threat

“Young women are facing a triple threat,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé at the launch of the new report. “They are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing, and have poor adherence to treatment. The world is failing young women and we urgently need to do more.” 

Statistics like those found in this new UNAIDS report affirm everything the SLF’s partner organizations are experiencing at the community-level. That’s why the focus of our most recent Grassroots newsletter is the child and youth treatment gap. Our partners know that young people – and adolescent girls in particular – require so much more than antiretroviral drugs. They understand that infection with the HIV virus is just one of the many blows these young people have had to absorb. As a result, none of their treatment-oriented innovations are taken as stand-alone measures. Rather, they are part of comprehensive systems of support that address every aspect of young people’s lives. 


Innovations in treatment

From our newsletter, here’s a summary of just a few of our partner organizations’ many, vital innovations around child and youth care: 

  • Child-Friendly Clinics: Special clinics for HIV-affected young people, staffed entirely by pediatricians and counsellors trained to relate to children and adolescents.
  • Peer Counselling: Support systems that engage HIV-positive young people as peer counsellors, who can speak with other infected and affected youth from their own experience, and provide a meaningful link to other services.
  • Capacity Building: Programmes that train community health workers and home-based care workers to engage more confidently and effectively with children and teenagers, and to support their caregivers in helping them adhere to treatment.
  • Early Childhood Initiatives: The provision of early childhood learning initiatives which serve as an entry point into HIV care for families who are uneasy about visiting medical facilities because of possible exposure to stigma and discrimination.
  • Grandmother Support: Programming that supports the grandmothers who have stepped in to care for millions of orphaned children—typically with very few physical, emotional, and material resources of their own.
  • Mutual Support Groups: Routine gatherings for HIV-positive young people, where they find safety and a sense of community with their peers, free from fear and stigma, and develop the self-esteem they need to take on leadership roles. 

Click here to read the Fall 2016 Grassroots cover story, “An Emerging Crisis: The Child and Youth Treatment Gap.” You can also read about our partner organizations' work with children and youth in our most recent Year in Review—an in-depth look at how community-based organizations are turning the tide of AIDS across sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on reaching children, youth, and grandmothers. 


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