Protecting Girls is Key to Fighting AIDS

There has been significant progress in recent years, but children still suffer because of HIV/AIDS. Today’s report from UNICEF says adolescents, especially girls, are at the highest risk.

Globally, an estimated 1,100 young women (aged 15–24 years) are infected with HIV every day. According to UNICEF, adolescent girls are disproportionately vulnerable because of, “low social status, household poverty, food insecurity, and poor quality education.”

Prevention messages often focus on “safe” sex or messages about individual behavior, but we also need to address cultural and societal issues. Among these is ‘intergenerational churning.’ This is where older men have sex with younger women, often in exchange for cash, school fees, etc. The myth of the “sugar daddy” who answers every material need can lead girls into what is essentially a deathtrap.

Providing school fees can help girls stay in school, but they also need the hear the message that they have value and worth that goes beyond their physical bodies.

Adolescent girls also have a high rate of intimate partner violence, including rape. According to UNICEF, “in some settings nearly half of adolescent girls report their  1st sexual experience was forced” (p. 38).

The report calls for cooperation among those working with youth, and not just through “official” channels such as NGOs, healthcare, and government agencies. Everywhere youth and children are, they need to have people they can trust to protect them and advocate for them. They need truth, delivered with love and in a way they can understand. And they need support to actually live a life free of HIV/AIDS. That places responsibility on all of us.

The youth of every nation deserve better.

 

Source: For Every Child, End AIDS: Seventh Stocktaking Report, 2016. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2016, from https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_93427.html