Thursday, November 24, 2016

HIV Risk High Among Young African Women

In terms of HIV risk, it is currently a "particularly dangerous time" for young women living in sub-Saharan Africa. The 2016 World AIDS Day report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was recently issued, and it showed that nearly 20% of the more than 2 million new cases in 2015 were in young women ages 18 to 24. The gender gap in HIV risk in southern Africa in particular is striking; 91% of new infections in adolescents ages 15 to 19 in that region were in girls. Below is an aggregated chart for both southern and eastern Africa illustrating the gender imbalance in young people's acquisition of HIV.

A variety of reasons may lead to this elevated risk in young women. For one, many younger women are involved in sexual relationships with older men, who transmit the disease to a younger generation. These women later age and continue the cycle of infection; this process is pictured below.

In addition, many young women in particular face food insecurity and a lack of education. Furthermore, they may not be aware of their heightened risk and likely have not yet had as much testing and medical care as older age groups. The reasons behind these statistics are complex, and UNAIDS continues to call for increased awareness and funding to better address this vulnerable population in particular.

by Julia Daniel


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