June 27, 2016
Written by Dr. Timothy Mastro, Director, Global, Health, Population & Nutrition, FHI 360
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post here. Reposted with permission.
Welcome to the #EndHIV4Her blog series on integrated development. This series will feature blogs from a variety of perspectives from the global health community on why an integrative approach to development is essential to alleviate and potentially end the HIV epidemic for girls and women. Share your thoughts with us by using #EndHIV4Her on social media and read all three blogs here.
Adolescent girls and young women continue to be at unacceptably high risk for HIV infection. UNAIDS estimates that 7,500 girls and young women, 10 to 24 years of age, become infected with HIV every week, with the highest rates in southern and eastern Africa. Girls and young women account for 71 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the gender disparity in this age group. Despite active prevention efforts, recent clinical trials in southern Africa have measured new HIV infection rates of 4 to 6 percent per year among young women. It is imperative that we implement aggressive measures to decrease new HIV infections among girls and young women.
Our current HIV prevention package of HIV testing, behavioral risk reduction, management of sexually transmitted infections and condom use is inadequate because young women often lack the ability to control their risk. The evidence is clear that the source of HIV infection for most girls and young women in southern Africa is older men. For young women, a complex mix of economic dependency, limited educational opportunity, gender inequality, unequal power dynamics and social norms leads to a lack of choice of how and with whom to have sex.
Bold measures that use the science to improve lives are key to #EndHIV4Her. What are programs that will help to curb new HIV infections among girls and young women?
The momentum to protect girls and women from HIV and achieve an AIDS-free generation is picking up speed. The International AIDS Conference returns to Durban, South Africa, in July 2016, for the first time since 2000. The AIDS effort has been transformed during these 16 years, but there is still much to be done, especially for girls and young women. AIDS 2016 offers an opportunity to re-energize our HIV prevention efforts and bring together the holistic, integrated approaches that are most likely to lead to reduced HIV infections for those most vulnerable, especially girls and young women.
Dr. Timothy Mastro is Director of Global Health, Population & Nutrition at FHI 360, Durham, North Carolina, USA. He is also Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Mastro oversees FHI 360’s health, population and nutrition research and program science conducted in the United States and through FHI 360’s offices in 50 countries around the world. Follow Dr. Mastro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrTimMastro