A new UNICEF report shows that approximately 30 teenagers aged 15 to 19 were newly infected with HIV per hour in 2017. Two third of these numbers were girls.
While there has been substantial progress in the fight against AIDS in the last two decades, the failure to prevent so many new infections among children and teenagers is slowing this down, the report said.
It said the epidemic’s spread among adolescent girls is being fueled by early sex, including with older men, forced sex, powerlessness in negotiating around sex, poverty and lack of access to confidential counseling and testing services.
UNICEF’s report, presented last Wednesday at an AIDS conference in Amsterdam, said that 130,000 children aged 19 and under died from AIDS last year, while 430,000 – almost 50 an hour – were newly infected.
Angelique Kidjo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, in an essay featured in the report stipulated that girls and women need to be secured enough economically so that they don’t have to turn to sex work. Therefore, it is imperative to make sure they have the right information about how HIV is transmitted and how to protect themselves. And, of course, they need to have access to any services or medicines they need to keep healthy. Above all, girls’ and women’s empowerment – and education is often the best route to that.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 35 million people have died of HIV. Globally, 36.9 million [31.1–43.9 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2017.