Teenage girls in sub-Saharan Africa are five times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys, a new UN report says.
Nearly half of all the adolescents living with HIV globally are in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in East Africa, according to the report by the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAids).
The report shows that while major advances have been made in almost every area of the response to HIV, progress for adolescents is lagging behind. Girls between 15 and 19 are five times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys of a similar age.
New infections among adolescents are not decreasing as quickly as they should. In fact, according to UNAids estimates, adolescents are the only age group in which deaths due to Aids are not decreasing — while all other age groups combined experienced a decline of 38 per cent in Aids-related deaths between 2005 and 2013.
Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda contribute up to 20 per cent of the total HIV/ Aids cases and deaths on the continent. Aids is now the leading cause of death among adolescents (aged 10–19) in Africa and the second most common cause of death among adolescents globally.
There were 250,000 new HIV infections among adolescents in 2014, two-thirds of who were adolescent girls. The majority of the 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV/Aids have been infected through of mother-to-child transmission, and many do not know their status.
They enter early adolescence with limited opportunities for early detection or referral to treatment programmes, and dying from preventable deaths.
“Gender-based inequality, age-disparate sex and intimate partner violence are three potential factors that put girls at increased risk of acquiring HIV,” says the report.
“Globally, two-thirds of all new infections among adolescents were among adolescent girls. This is a moral injustice,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAids.
Aids-related deaths among adolescents today reflect HIV infections in children from at least a decade ago. Many children who slipped out of care and treatment programmes, were lost to follow-up or never diagnosed.
Current data reveals that the scale-up of testing and treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV remains slow.
Children and adolescents under 15 who are living with HIV are considerably less likely to receive treatment than adults, with less than one in four children between the ages of 0 and 14 (24 per cent) accessing antiretroviral therapy in 2014.