Working to eliminate teen HIV

18 July Jul 2016 1630 18 July 2016
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2.1 million adolescents have HIV worldwide. For children like Elijah, living with HIV transmitted to him from his mother's breast milk, the stigma of life with HIV marked his childhood and affected his schooling. Every hour, 26 teenagers are infected with HIV. Only 26% of girls and 33% of boys worldwide have a full understanding of how HIV is transmitted, which is why NGOs like WhizzKids United and UNICEF are campaigning to #endadolescentaids.

Most teenagers do not know their HIV status. Not only that, but every hour 26 teenagers are newly infected with HIV. This is why UNICEF are calling attention to the problem of HIV infections in our youth, with the campaign #Endadolescentaids. The campaign aims to end the number 2 cause of death of adolescents globally.

"It's time for us to take action . All in is about bringing everyone together to stop adolescent deaths, infections, and violence caused by AIDS," says the#Endadolescentaids campaign.

At the International Aids Conference held yesterday in Durban, South Africa, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon stated that "To end this epidemic, we must close the gaps that keep people from accessing services and living with dignity."

Girls make up the majority of teen HIV infections. Not only that, but they total 62% of new infections worldwide.

"We have to expand resources, science and services. When we do this, we can end stigma and discrimination, prevent the spread of HIV, and save lives,” added Ban-Ki Moon.

Drug Resistance in teenagers

With 2.1 million adolescents infected with HIV worldwide, the likelihood of developing drug-resistant HIV during their lifetime is higher than in adults.

Although testing HIV positive is not a death sentence, and does not necessarily mean developing AIDS, drug resistant HIV is of increasing concern.

According to the World Health Organisation, "As treatment expands, countries need to ensure that the quality of treatment is assured to reduce the emergence of drug resistance".

Drug resistance can develop once a person becomes infected with HIV, and the virus begins to multiply (make copies of itself) in the body. As HIV multiplies, it sometimes mutates (changes form) and produces variations of itself. Variations of HIV that develop while a person is taking HIV medicines can lead to drug-resistant strains of HIV.

HIV medicines that previously controlled the person’s HIV are not effective against the new, drug-resistant HIV. In other words, the HIV medicines can’t prevent the drug-resistant HIV from multiplying. Drug resistance can cause HIV treatment to fail.

HIV self-testing provides an opportunity for more people to be tested, particularly for those reluctant to use health services

World Health Organization

Drug-resistant HIV can spread from person to person. People initially infected with drug-resistant HIV have drug resistance to one or more HIV medicines even before they start taking HIV medicines. As a result of drug resistance, one or more HIV medicines in a person’s HIV regimen may no longer be effective.

Youth empowerment and solutions

Despite this, there is hope for reducing HIV in teenagers worldwide, through the use of education and greater accessibility to health services, and advances in technology.

Grassroots NGOs such as Whizz Kids work with children and teenagers, using football as a means of empowering young people and nurturing talent builds the foundation of a society for a brighter future. They also provide health services, and education: "Adolescent health has always been central to our work. We have many years of experience in delivering sexual and reproductive health services including HIV prevention, care, treatment and support," they state.

Technological advancements include self-testing, and the possiblity of obtaining results in 20 minutes. "HIV self-testing provides an opportunity for more people to be tested, particularly for those reluctant to use health services" says the World Health Organization.

With more than 18,000 global leaders, scientists, advocates, and frontline health workers having gathered in Durban "in order to advance knowledge about HIV and build innovative partnerships to strengthen global response to the endemic" , the eradication of HIV and AIDS worldwide is not unthinkable with the use of technology, education, accessibility to health services, and youth empowerment.

Photo Credits: Getty Images/China Photos

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