AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Africa Bureau has charged the global community to speed up interventions in order halt the spate of new HIV infections and AIDS related deaths among young people.
The charge was made in commemoration of the 2016 International Youth Day with the theme: “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production.”
The focus on HIV/AIDS in young people is very germane, largely because health and wellness play a very crucial role in ending the cycle of poverty.
According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), despite progress made in HIV/AIDS response, young people, especially young women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. In 2014, over 3 million young people (15-24) were living with HIV, more than 600,000 became newly infected and AIDS became the leading cause of death among young people in Africa.
“As we trek the journey to achieving sustainable development by 2030, we must invest significant efforts in young people!!! This includes guaranteeing their rights and empowerment as a moral obligation.
“For example, by specifically empowering young women and girls, and having them at the center of the global AIDS response, we will fast track the end to the AIDS epidemic by 2030. We can, and should do it without hesitation!” said Alice Kayongo, Regional Policy and Advocacy Manager – East/West Africa.
For young women and girls, the figures are grimmer with over 300,000 new HIV infections occurring annually. Globally 15% of all women living with HIV fall within age 15-24 years and 80% of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“New HIV infections are alarmingly high among young women and girls. Largely as a result of sexual violence and gender inequality which fuels low self-esteem and hopelessness. Our young girls need education. They need safety and opportunities to work and be independent. If our leaders want to ensure a brighter, more stable, prosperous future for Africa, they need to invest in girls education today,” added Larissa Klazinga, Regional Policy and Advocacy Manager – Southern Africa.
Although HIV/AIDS among young people is a major discourse today, interventions matching the magnitude of the epidemic are still subpar. This can be attributed to limited access to sexual and reproductive health information, inadequate youth friendly services and access to treatment, continued existence of harmful norms and traditions which threatens the rights and increases the risks of young women and girls, limited involvement of young people in decision making processes, limited investments by governments in young people, and inadequate psychosocial support for young people living with HIV.
“HIV/AIDS response for young people must be treated with the sense of urgency that it deserves and it will be impossible to achieve meaningful progress without their inclusion and active participation. Governments and stakeholders must invest in HIV/AIDS response for young people, by making available youth friendly services and centres, promoting access to comprehensive sexuality education and testing, ending gender inequalities, and ensuring that those living with HIV have access to treatment and psychosocial support, thereby empowering them to live productive lives. We must give room for youth-led processes and not see young people as just recipients of programs and services. Today, the world has the most vibrant group of young people it has ever witnessed and it is our responsibility to provide them the support they need to use their initiatives and voices to reach their peers,” added Dr Penninah Iutung, AHF Africa Bureau Chief.
AHF, the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 618,000 individuals in 35 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe.