Working together for an AIDS-free future for girls
It may seem surprising, but the group most affected by HIV/AIDS around the world is adolescent girls. In fact, in 2013 girls accounted for more than 80 per cent of new HIV infections among adolescents in the hardest hit countries. Today, on World AIDS Day, it's time to change how we think about HIV/AIDS, and to start taking action.
Over the past 20 years the world has made huge progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but that progress hasn't happened for girls, for whom rates of infection are actually increasing. "Adolescent girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, and prevention efforts to date have not had the impact we need," said the US global AIDS co-ordinator, Ambassador Deborah L Birx MD.
TARGET GIRLS FOR AN AIDS-FREE GENERATION
Before we can begin to talk about ending AIDS, the world needs to focus on preventing the 380,000 adolescent girls and young women from being infected with HIV every year. This is something that Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recognises: "We have to find better ways to accelerate efforts for adolescent girls and young women - who are twice as likely to be infected in some countries." So what might some of those new methods look like? Traditional approaches to AIDS prevention focus on health (eg providing condoms) but this is just one piece of the puzzle. We believe a new type of approach is needed - a holistic approach, tailored to girls, that covers the areas of health, economic security, education, safety and girls' voices/rights.
CELEBRATING A NEW INITIATIVE
Today the US President's office announced a new partnership between the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Nike Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce the number of new HIV/AIDS infections among adolescent girls in countries with the highest rate of the disease.
The $210m initiative will provide a variety of evidence-based interventions that have successfully addressed HIV risk behaviours, HIV transmission and gender-based violence. Maria Eitel, president and CEO of the Nike Foundation, commented: "This bold initiative will combine interventions that, when delivered together, in addition to challenging and changing perceptions and norms, will transform a girl's life and accelerate efforts to achieve an AIDS-free future for girls."
This initiative will specifically target adolescent girls with a multi-sector approach, crossing over into health, education, social care and finance. The investment means that girls will benefit from a range of measures that have even greater impact when used together. Examples of areas of focus include decreasing risk in sexual partners, adolescent-friendly sexual health for girls, strengthening the community and strengthening the family. Find out more about the initiative here.