Commentary: Innovations in Programming for HIV Among Adolescents: Towards an AIDS-Free Generation

Advocacy Materials
4 p.
Periodical title
JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes; Volume 66, Supplement 2, S224-227

In the effort to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS among adolescents, public health and medical experts, moral and political authorities across the globe have implemented a combination of interventions. An imperative exists for such a multisectoral approach: Despite impressive progress toward reducing the HIV and AIDS burden globally during the past decade—new HIV infections worldwide decreased by 33% from 2001 to 2012—new infections among young people aged 15 to 24 persist at unacceptable rates.4 Adolescents aged 10 to 19 are the only age group for which death rates attributable to HIV are on the rise. Global statistics, however, do not reflect locally implemented good practices. Evidence from diverse settings around the world provides examples for potential ways forward. Successful programs for young people integrate biomedical, behavioral and structural interventions, and engage young people as agents of change. Such approaches operate under the theory that youth social networks have unprecedented power not only to diffuse HIV-specific knowledge and promote healthy behavior but also, more importantly, to drive access to assets—like bank accounts and job opportunities—and impact structural drivers of the HIV epidemic. In the words of Dr. David Harrison, formerly the head of loveLife in South Africa and now the CEO of the DG Murray Trust, such initiatives use the power of social networks to “create a sense of real and imminent possibilities in life,” which can change young people's response to life circumstances and “swing the risk calculus toward safer sexual behaviour.”

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