Poverty has been identified as the leading cause of the soaring numbers of young people especially girls dying of HIV/AIDS related diseases in Africa. As the world marked the National Aids Day yesterday, it was apparent that more focus and empowerment needs to be given to girls if the AIDS pandemic is to be curtailed.
REDUCING DEPENDENCY ON ‘SUGAR DADDIES’
For instance, a study conducted by health researchers in South Africa and Britain discovered that supporting girls with grants helped in reducing their dependence on sugar daddies who took advantage of the girls’ desperation to lure them into exchanging sex for freebies.
The study, which was published in Lancet Global Health, established that girls from poor backgrounds who were on grant schemes were two-thirds less likely to have a much older boyfriend in comparison to girls from homes that are not on the grants.
AFRICA: YOUTH HALF OF NEW INFECTIONS
The story is the same in other African countries as young people account for half of the number of new HIV infections.
According to UNICEF 49,000 adolescent girls and 42,000 adolescent boys are living with HIV in Malawi. There were 6,700 new infections among adolescents aged 15-19 in 2012 in the country which has also embarked on cash programme to empower girls.
KENYA: FIRST LADY LAUNCHES HIV STRATEGIC PLAN
Kenya has also begun to shift focus to girls, especially in the slum areas, in an effort to fight HIV/AIDS. First lady, Margret Kenyatta launched a new plan to fight against Aids yesterday that will give focus to women and children.
Even though mother-to-child transmission in Kenya has been reduced by nearly half from 2009, in part thanks to the mandatory HIV testing expectant mothers are required to undergo at the onset of their pre-natal clinics, the progress is still slow. An estimated 13,000 children still contract HIV from their mothers annually during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding.
Kenya targets to reduce new infections among children to reduce it to less than 2,300 infections per year by 2015 from a baseline of 23,000 infections per year in 2009, as well as ensure that young people and children living with HIV have access to medicine. There are currently about 215,000 children living with HIV in Kenya with only 81,700 having access to medicine.