» Archive for category: ‘HIV/AIDS


ALL_IN

UNICEF and UNAIDS are learning that, in the fight against AIDS, they ignore adolescents at their peril. The UN organizations have released their latest statistics on HIV/AIDS worldwide, and they show impressive progress in most areas, with significant reductions in AIDS-related deaths — including the prevention of infant infection through aggressive mother-to-child transmission prevention. There is one glaring exception however: adolescents.

Girl_infections_infographics_1 New infections among adolescents (10-19 year olds) have actually risen. AIDS is now the leading killer of adolescents in Africa and the second cause of death of adolescents worldwide. Girls and young women are disproportionately affected, comprising the majority (64%) of new infections. Adolescents also face greater challenges of access and adherence to treatment than other age groups. In fact, many are not even aware that they are living with HIV (UNICEF, 2014).

In response to this glaring exception, UNAIDS and UNICEF launched the All In to End Adolescent AIDS Initiative this week in Kenya. With the support of UNFPA, WHO, PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and various youth movements, All In intends to provide ‘a new platform for action to drive better results for adolescents by encouraging strategic changes in policy and engaging more young people in the effort’ (UNAIDS, 2015).

According to UNAIDS, ‘All In focuses on four key action areas: engaging, mobilizing and empowering adolescents as leaders and actors of social change; improving data collection to better inform programming; encouraging innovative approaches to reach adolescents with essential HIV services adapted to their needs; and placing adolescent HIV firmly on political agendas to spur concrete action and mobilize resources’ (ibid.).

While All In shows promise for reversing these trends by involving more young people directly in the effort, it remains to be seen to what extent it will lead to concrete gains, either in HIV reduction amongst adolescents or greater youth participation in such initiatives (after all, UNICEF has made these points before). The initiative’s website contains few details. It is unclear, for example, what role essential support like comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) will play in All In Initiatives, despite the vast majority becoming infected through sexual transmission. madnkts

Further, All In pledges to engage young people, but with All In calling on ‘national leaders to coordinate, support and lead assessments of existing programmes and expand partnerships for innovation between the public and private sectors’ (ibid. ), young people’s participation may easily be hijacked or usurped by others’ interests.

The fight against HIV/AIDS clearly needs adolescents, and adolescents need to take a greater place in research and policymaking. To do this, they need support to receive and even redesign CSE (see our other recent blogposts on CSE) and other capacity building to help them make the most of participatory opportunities, and to lessen the impact of HIV/AIDS on their lives. ISS is doing this through, for example, projects that involve young people directly in research about their sexual and reproductive health needs to improve CSE delivery in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, The Dutch Children Affected by AIDS (CABA) Working Group, of which ISS is now a part, will be working to ensure that adolescents are prominently involved in the AIDS 2018 conference to be held in Amsterdam.

Posted by Kristen Cheney


International Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.