Today is World AIDS Day, an annual opportunity where millions of people come together across the globe to commemorate people who lost their lives to HIV, acknowledge progress made in responding to the epidemic and recommit to ending the AIDS epidemic.
This year’s theme is “Hands up for #HIVprevention,” which aims to emphasize the different aspects of HIV prevention and what it means for specific groups of people, such as adolescent girls and young women, key populations living with the HIV virus.
A new report by UNAIDS called Get on the Fast-Track: the life-cycle approach to HIV reports that 18.2 million people now have access to HIV treatment. This recently created “life cycle” response is working to increase treatment coverage in reducing AIDS-related deaths, specifically among young women and children.
A girls’ transition to womanhood is a very dangerous time, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where young women are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing, and have poor adherence to treatment. Recent data from South Africa shows that they typically acquire HIV from adult men, while men acquire HIV much later in life after they transition into adulthood and continue the cycle of new infections.
Children are not safe from the virus either: 150,000 were newly infected with HIV in 2015 and around half were infected through breastfeeding. Infection through breastfeeding can be avoided if mothers living with HIV are supported to continue taking antiretroviral medicines, allowing them to breastfeed safely and ensure that their children receive the important protective benefits of breastmilk.
HIV prevention is key to ending the AIDS epidemic among young women and the cycle of HIV infection needs to be broken. More efforts are needed to expand HIV testing for pregnant women, expand treatment for children and improve and expand early infant diagnosis by using new diagnostic tools and innovative methods to retain mothers living with HIV and their babies in care.
Let’s raise our hands up high for #HIVprevention this World AIDS Day and give hope to those who need it most.
Take action challenge
- Share a story about a female HIV survivor you know. Tweet us at @GlobalMomsChall and use hash tag #WorldAIDSDay.