Once I am inside and see one of my mother’s friends, what do I do?

March 16, 2015

Barriers that young people face include youth-unfriendly HIV services and poverty. Young people, and young women in particular, are disproportionally affected by HIV. Worldwide, four million young people aged 15-24 are living with HIV, nearly 75 percent of them living in sub-Saharan Africa. The interventions of STOP AIDS NOW! are based on the realities on the ground. We address the gaps in national HIV and SRHR responses, in collaboration with different stakeholders across different disciplines.

"After I had sex with my ex-girlfriend on Valentine’s day, I was afraid I might have HIV. Someone had told me that I needed PEP treatment within 48 hours to protect myself against the virus. But I didn’t want to visit a clinic, because once I am inside and see one of my mother’s friends, what do I do? A friend convinced me to go. However, different hospitals and pharmacies didn’t have the medicines in stock. At one of the health centres I was told that they don’t have medication for people who had unprotected sex. Finally, I managed to get the medication from a friend, but only for two days. I pray to God that I don’t have HIV."

- Boy of 17 from Burundi

To secure their future, young people need a comprehensive approach. We should all work together to embraces five programming building blocks to create a change.

Quality HIV and SRHR services

Young people lack access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health and HIV services that fit their needs. Too often, young people are sent away from general services under the assumption that they should not be having sex at their age. Furthermore, fees pose a barrier. Services are also short of key commodities and medicines. Male condoms are available for just over 10 percent of sexually active people, and for young people condom access is even less. Youth also have less access to antiretroviral treatment. Moreover, privacy and confidentiality are often lacking, which hinders, for instance, HIV testing.

Enabling legal environment

Policies, laws, and regulations can contribute to raising barriers. Young people, for instance, are kept away from services by mandatory parental or age of consent requirements. Moreover, young sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, and people who use drugs are driven underground by laws. Forced HIV testing and disclosure of HIV positive status also drive away youth.

Quality education

Young people need access to quality education, including comprehensive sexuality education, as this is associated with higher HIV knowledge and better health outcomes. However, teachers and health workers are often not equipped to provide sexuality education and have negative attitudes towards youth sexuality.

Economic empowerment

Poverty can drive young people into risky behaviours. Women are particularly vulnerable, as they are often economically dependent on their families and partners. Young people need to be supported to develop vocational, business and financial management skills, and they need access to financing for business initiatives or education.

Gender egalitarian, socio-culturally supportive environment

Gender based discrimination seriously hampers the ability of young women to protect themselves from HIV or to stay healthy when living with HIV. Challenges include unequal power in transactional, and often intergenerational, sexual relations, age-disparate relationships, and violence. Young people need to be protected from harmful cultural practices and supported to enter into gender egalitarian relationships.

STOP AIDS NOW!’s interventions

STOP AIDS NOW! reduces HIV transmission and AIDS related deaths in young people by improving the quality of HIV prevention and SRHR programmes and services, empowering young people, removing barriers, and conducting research by and on young people.