Call to re­duce youth HIV in­fec­tions

Lesotho Times - - News - Lim­pho Sello

A CALL has been made to pri­ori­tise low­er­ing hiv in­fec­tions among ado­les­cents.

Ac­cord­ing to Min­istry of health Ado­les­cent health pro­gramme Man­ager, Mathato Nku­at­sana, the in­fec­tions are not de­clin­ing at the same rate as other age-groups, which she said had be­come cause for con­cern.

Ms Nku­at­sana made the re­marks in an in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times on the side­lines of a one-day meet­ing held in Maseru this week to for­mu­late strate­gies to ad­dress the chal­lenge.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, which was at­tended by of­fi­cials from govern­ment min­istries work­ing with youths, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, it was re­solved that more at­ten­tion should be ac­corded to the plight of ado­les­cents.

Ado­les­cents are youths aged be­tween 13 and 19 years and could be con­sid­ered the tran­si­tional stage from child­hood to adult­hood. HIV/AIDS has be­come the lead­ing cause of death for ado­les­cents in Africa. how­ever, just one in four chil­dren and ado­les­cents un­der the age of 15 have ac­cess to life-sav­ing an­tiretro­vi­ral treat­ment glob­ally. Deaths are de­clin­ing in all age groups, ex­cept among 10 – 19 year olds.

To ad­dress this in­equity, Ms Nku­at­sana said, the Joint United Na­tions pro­gramme on hiv and AIDS (UNAIDS), United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Emer­gency Fund (UNICEF) and other part­ners last year launched the All-in cam­paign, which seeks to achieve bet­ter re­sults for ado­les­cents by en­cour­ag­ing strate­gic changes in pol­icy and en­gag­ing more young peo­ple in the ef­fort.

“The All-in plat­form for ac­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion is based on a vi­sion to end the AIDS epi­demic among ado­les­cents by 2030,” she said.

“Among its tar­gets is the re­duc­tion of new hiv in­fec­tions among ado­les­cents by at least 75 per­cent by 2020 and in­creas­ing treat­ment cov­er­age to 80 per­cent of ado­les­cents liv­ing with hiv by 2020.”

Ms Nku­at­sana said the cam­paign fo­cusses on four key ac­tion ar­eas, namely en­gag­ing, mo­bil­is­ing and em­pow­er­ing ado­les­cents as lead­ers and ac­tors of so­cial change; im­prov­ing data col­lec­tion to bet­ter in­form pro­gram­ming and plac­ing ado­les­cent HIV firmly on the po­lit­i­cal agenda to spur con­crete ac­tion and mo­bilise re­sources.

She also noted that the par­tic­i­pa­tion of young peo­ple was key to the suc­cess of the cam­paign.

“Ado­les­cents have been ne­glected and be­cause of that, Aids-re­lated deaths have de­clined by about 40 per­cent for all age groups ex­cept young peo­ple,” said Ms Nku­at­sana.

“on the other hand, two-thirds of the 250 000 new global in­fec­tions among 15 to 19 year olds were among ado­les­cent girls.”

The meet­ing, she said, was meant to help ad­dress the most press­ing gaps in the ado­les­cent HIV/AIDS re­sponse.

“Em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence ex­ists on what works and what does not yield re­sults, but we are not ap­ply­ing the knowl­edge as we should,” Ms Nku­at­sana.

“The in­ten­tions are good on com­pre­hen­sive pro­gram­ming and we need prac­ti­cal ap­proaches for a rapid scale-up.”

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