Women November 23, 2016 at 10:00 am

HIV Infections Alarmingly High Among Young African Women

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

Fredrick Ngugi November 23, 2016 at 10:00 am

November 23, 2016 at 10:00 am | Women

A South African girl participates in an HIV campaign. African Independent

New HIV infections among young African women are alarmingly high, with the number of HIV patients taking antiretrovirals (ARVs) in Africa doubling over the last five years, according to a report published by UNAIDS Monday.

While health organizations, such as UNAIDS, are working around the clock to prevent new HIV infections around the world, the report reveals that thousands of women and young girls across the globe are being infected with the virus every week and the prevention of new infections is still difficult.

In 2015, at least 7,500 teenagers and young women across the world acquired the HIV virus every week, with the majority of new infections being recorded in South Africa, according to UNAIDS.

“Young women are facing a triple threat. They are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing, and have poor adherence to treatment. The world is failing young women, and we urgently need to do more,” UNAIDS Chief Michel Sidibe said.

According to the report, girls between 15 and 19 years old account for 90 percent of all new HIV infections in southern Africa. In eastern Africa, girls in the same age bracket account for 74 percent of new infections.

Major Causes of HIV Infections

At the launch of the report in Windhoek, Namibia, the research director of HEARD, a research center on HIV/AIDS at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Dr. Kaymarlin Govender said early sexual intercourse among young girls in Africa is the main factor behind the rising rate of HIV infections.

Govender also cited biological vulnerabilities in women for HIV acquisition and the increased rate of school dropouts in many parts of Africa as the other main contributors to HIV infection among young African women.

Low perception of risk of acquiring HIV and lack of knowledge of HIV status, including the transmission dynamics, are the other common factors behind the growing rate of infections.

ARV Treatment

The report also reveals that the number of people taking ARV drugs has doubled in only five years, pointing to the success of efforts that are currently being made by UNAIDS and other world health organizations in providing HIV patients with ARVs.

UNAIDS says it’s on course to hit its target of putting at least 30 million HIV patients on ARV treatment by 2020.

Approximately two-thirds of new HIV infections worldwide are in sub-Saharan Africa, with eastern and southern Africa leading the pack, according to the KFF Foundation.

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