In a recent revelation, UNICEF’s Global Snapshot on Children with HIV and AIDS sheds light on the persistent challenges faced by adolescent girls in the battle against HIV. Released just before World AIDS Day, the report unveils startling statistics, indicating that nearly 98,000 adolescent girls aged 10-19 contracted HIV in 2022, translating to a staggering 1,900 new infections each week.
“Girls were still more than twice as likely to contract HIV last year than boys.”
Despite a commendable halving of infections among girls in the last decade, they still face a disproportionate burden compared to boys. The global scenario witnessed 270,000 new HIV infections among children and adolescents aged 0-19 in 2022, bringing the total number of young people living with HIV to 2.6 million.
UNICEF’s Associate Director of HIV/AIDS, Anurita Bains, expressed her concern, stating, “It is unacceptable that adolescent girls, who should be planning their futures, continue to bear the heaviest burden of HIV infection.” Bains emphasizes the collective responsibility of the UN, communities, governments, and organizations to eliminate obstacles threatening the health and well-being of adolescent girls. This includes ensuring the fulfilment of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
REGIONAL STRUGGLES: A CLOSER LOOK AT SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
The article pinpoints several factors contributing to girls shouldering the brunt of the HIV epidemic, including gender inequalities, disempowerment in negotiating safe sex, and poverty, often manifested in communities located far from healthcare centres. In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV prevalence among adolescent girls and young women remains persistently over three times higher than among their male counterparts.
a lack of age-appropriate antiretroviral medication for younger age groups are among the reasons that just 57 per cent of children aged 0–14 years are receiving antiretroviral treatment, compared to 77 per cent of people aged 15 and above
TREATMENT GAPS AND INEQUITIES
The report underscores the glaring disparities in treatment access between children and adults globally. Alarmingly, nearly one million people aged 0-19 living with HIV are not receiving treatment, with 60% of this group located in Eastern and Southern Africa. Barriers such as cumbersome diagnostic processes, specific testing requirements for infants, and a lack of age-appropriate antiretroviral medication contribute to the significant treatment gaps for children.
A CALL TO ACTION: PROGRESS TOWARDS ENDING AIDS
While progress toward ending AIDS is slow, the devastating impact is evident, with 99,000 children and adolescents aged 0-19 succumbing to AIDS-related causes in 2022. This accounts for 15% of all AIDS-related deaths, even though this age group comprises just 7% of people living with HIV.
This reframed article aims to bring attention to the urgent issues highlighted by UNICEF, urging readers to contemplate the collective responsibility in addressing and resolving the challenges faced by adolescent girls in their battle.