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UNICEF warns of HIV crisis in teen girls – with one female becoming infected every three minutes

Written by Samantha Lade, Donr

Published on Tuesday, 31st July 2018

UNICEF warns of HIV crisis in teen girls with one female becoming infected every three minutes

According to a new UNICEF report, around 30 teenagers aged 15 to 19 were newly infected with HIV per hour in 2017 – and of these, two-third were girls.

Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said: 'This is a crisis of health as well as a crisis of agency.

'In most countries, women and girls lack access to information, to services, or even just the power to say no to unsafe sex. HIV thrives among the most vulnerable and marginalised, leaving teenage girls at the centre of the crisis.'

Women: At the heart of the HIV response for children, offers sobering statistics on the continuing global AIDS epidemic and its impact on the most vulnerable.

Last year, 130,000 children and adolescents 19 and under died from AIDS, while 430,000 – that's almost 50 an hour – were newly infected.

Presented at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam this week, the report says that adolescents continue to bear the brunt of the epidemic, and that failure to reach them is slowing down the progress the world has made in the last two decades in tackling the AIDS epidemic.

The report also revealed that even while deaths for all other age groups, including adults, have been decreasing since 2010, deaths among 15-19 year olds have seen no reduction.

The epidemic's spread among girls is being fuelled by early sex, including with older males, forced sex, powerlessness in negotiating around sex, poverty and lack of access to confidential counselling and testing services.

Angelique Kidjo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, said in the report: 'We need to make girls and women secure enough economically that they won't have to turn to sex work.

'Above all, we need to foster girls' and women's empowerment – and education is often the best route to that.'

UNICEF has recently launched a number of initiatives to help curb the spread of the epidemic, including the HIV Prevention 2020 Road Map action plan to speed up HIV prevention.

These initiatives have led to significant success in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. For example, Botswana and South Africa now have rates of mother-to-child transmission of only 5%. 

Henrietta Fore finishes: 'Women are the most affected by this epidemic – both in the number of infections and as chief caregivers for those with the disease – and should continue to be ar the forefront of the fight against it. The fight is far from over.'