Young women can make a difference

October 1, 2015

Every minute HIV is transmitted to one young woman. In sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of young women aged 15-24 living with HIV is twice that of young men. On September 25, 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted. World leaders have committed themselves to achieving a better and more equitable world for all. STOP AIDS NOW! continues to focus on ensuring equality and defending the rights of young women in particular.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the vast majority of people living with HIV and AIDS, women account for more than half the total number of people living with HIV. Despite significant process made in the AIDS response in the past decade, a lot of work remains to be done. We particularly need to ensure that no one will be left behind in accessing life-saving HIV treatment and care and all women have access to the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services they need. Unfortunately, the vulnerability to HIV for young women is exacerbated by persisting major inequalities between women and men in all aspects of life. This affects women’s power to protect themselves from HIV and violates their human rights.

Link Up

To address the needs of young women, STOP AIDS NOW! focuses on comprehensive sexuality education, youth-friendly HIV and SRHR services, economic empowerment, and elimination of legal and policy barriers. Our Link Up project, for example, aims to strengthen young people’s and women’s organisations. The project supports young women living with HIV to take the lead in influencing important international processes. It also implements youth-led research into the needs of young people living with HIV, including women. We work to make women more self-assured and enable them to defend their rights.

Leaving no one behind

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include an overarching health goal to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, with specific targets to end AIDS. As Stop AIDS Alliance we have played an active role to put equality and leaving no one behind as a key priority. The Stop AIDS Alliance is a joint policy and advocacy partnership between STOP AIDS NOW! and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

During the SDG Summit, STOP AIDS NOW! hosted the side event ‘Young people leading change’. Young community leaders, UN representatives and advocates discussed how young people can make a difference in ensuring the SDG targets on HIV and sexual and reproductive health can be realised for all, including young women. We organised the event in collaboration with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Link Up. It was co-hosted by UNAIDS and the Global Fund. 

Advocacy tool

The SDG framework contains strong language to reduce inequalities. However, during the negotiations it was clear yet again how much push-back there was on any proposed language regarding sexual rights, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, gender identity, and human rights for women and marginalised groups in general. Yet, the SDG framework does provide us with a strong advocacy tool to hold governments accountable and ensure that national plans include sufficient support and services for young women.