KAMPALA, Uganda--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Africa Bureau will launch its campaign to fight HIV amongst young women and girls aged 15-24 in South Africa and Nigeria on the 25th and in Kenya on the 29th of November. This is coming after a successful launch of the same campaign in Uganda about 3 weeks ago.
The campaign dubbed Girls’ ACT (Awareness Campaign Tour) is largely informed by the compelling fact that young women and adolescent girls account for one in five new HIV infections in Africa and are almost three times more likely than their male counterparts to be living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. This is highlighted in the 2013 report of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which states that almost 60% of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15–24 occurred among adolescent girls and young women and 80% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. “These statistics spotlights the disproportion that young women and girls face in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and begs for more strategic and relatable approaches," said Dr. Adetayo Towolawi, Country Program Manager, AHF Nigeria. “It is therefore imperative that we reach out to these young women and girls in an aggressive manner, leaving no stone unturned and no one behind.”
Girls’ ACT, is a multi-institutional drive that primarily aims to; a) scale up HIV/AIDS prevention services in order to curb new HIV infections amongst this population sub-group, and b) ensure that young people living with HIV are enrolled and retained in HIV care for improved health outcomes. “To achieve this, AHF is working together with partners from government, civil society and business, to offer a range of health services including HIV and TB tests, Sexual reproductive health, menstrual health and self-esteem, counseling on gender-based violence, and pro-bono legal services for victims of violation or abuse,” added Hilary Thulare, Country Program Director, AHF South Africa “Together we can empower our communities to ACT against HIV and sexual violence and promote positive living with dignity amongst young women and adolescent girls.”
“Our safe space programs and interactions with young people in Kenya, has given us a great opportunity to understand the needs of young women and girls better, and insights on how best to support them,” said Dr. Wamae Maranga, Country Director, AHF Kenya. “Majority of the girls do not visit health facilities for various reasons, and those living with HIV continue to struggle with self-esteem issues and stigma, which negatively impact their health. Therefore, if we want to get different results, we must do things differently and that is where an out-of-the-box initiative such as the GIRLS ACT comes to bare.”
The GIRLS ACT campaign, which takes the form of a concert-like caravan, aims to bring services closer to communities, targeting young women and adolescent girls from all walks of life, different socioeconomic groupings and dwellings. However, their male counterparts and the general community as key gatekeepers for young girls’ protection will also benefit by accessing HIV/AIDS related information & services as well as other connect services.
“Young women and girls are a major focus for us at AHF right now. We want to see them live healthy lives and make informed decisions about their health, so we can break the cycle of new infections,” said Terri Ford, Chief of Global advocacy and Policy. “We cannot afford to be complacent about this and to see how the GIRLS ACT has gained so much buy-in and huge followership, is proof that we need young people at the heart of these interventions. We have to keep them alive and well”!
Speaking on the success of the campaign in Uganda, AHF Africa Bureau Chief, Dr. Penninah Iutung shared thus “At the Uganda launch, Girls ACT was well received by stakeholders and partners alike; who have committed to working with us on this project as we move to more districts.” Beyond the strengthened partnerships, the most significant and remarkable outcome from the launch was witnessing young women and girls who had fallen out of treatment, get re-enrolled. That was an absolute indication that we are on the right track”. “We will continue to work closely with young people across our country programs to see what works best for them, in order to ensure they have access to the much needed care and information,” she enthused.