Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Batswana girls hardest hit ÔÇô new HIV/AIDS report

At least 220 000 young adolescents and young women in Botswana are HIV positive, the latest UNAID report has revealed.

The report ranked Botswana ranked 7th in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in the numbers of HIV positive adolescent females and young women.

The report titled “Women and HIV; A spotlight on adolescent girls and young women” shows that Botswana has 220 000 infected youths tailing Malawi at 630 000 and ranked 6th while Zambia came fifth, with 670 000 cases.

The report also shows that neighbouring South Africa is leading the pack with the highest number of young women and adolescents of 4, 4 million and Mozambique with 1, 3 million coming second while Tanzania followed with 870 000 and  Zimbabwe occupied the third spot with 780 00.

According to the report, an alarming seven in 10 young women in Botswana and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa do not have comprehensive knowledge about HIV.

The report shows that knowledge about HIV prevention among young people has remained stagnant over the past 20 years.  The report says Comprehensive sexuality education programmes are often limited.   Only 36.4% of young men and 29.8% of young women in sub-Saharan Africa have basic knowledge about how to protect themselves from HIV.

Commenting on the report, UNAID Executive Director Michel Sedibe said adolescent girls and young women are still disproportionally affected by HIV. He said services for adolescent girls and young women are especially failing to reach those who are falling the furthest behindÔÇöadolescent girls and young women who experience gender-based violence, who are sexually exploited or who use drugs, among others.

He attributed the increase in the number of young women affected by HIV to among others gender inequalities and discrimination which he said compounds their vulnerabilities to HIV.

“They are largely invisible, underserved and underrepresented in policies, services and investments. When girls can’t uphold their human rightsÔÇöespecially their sexual and reproductive health and rightsÔÇöefforts to get to zero exclusion, zero discrimination, zero violence and zero stigma are undermined,” said Sedibe.

He said “ It is time to break the vicious cycle of gender inequities, gender-based violence and HIV infection, once and for all. Oppression and power imbalances must be reversed and harmful masculinities must be consigned to the history books. It is time to empower women and girls.”

 In eastern and southern Africa in 2017, 79% of new HIV infections among 10ÔÇô19-year-olds were among females. An estimated 50 adolescent girls die every day from AIDS-related illnesses. And each day, some 460 adolescent girls become infected with HIV,” he said.

According to Sedibe, accountability is critical and “we are far behind reaching the Fast-Track Targets for 2020 agreed by all countries in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS.”

“Stigma and discrimination, especially surrounding adolescent girls’ sexuality, alongside HIV disclosure issues and travel and waiting times at clinics, are among the reasons for low adherence,” read the report

The report also noted that restrictive laws and policiesÔÇöincluding criminalization, age of consent laws and adult-oriented HIV services that are perceived as intimidating and of poor qualityÔÇödiscourage service uptake by adolescents.

“Adolescent girls are especially affected when approval by a parent, guardian or spouse is required before seeking basic health information and services,” the report says.

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