Understanding adolescent girls' protection strategies against HIV: an exploratory study in urban Lusaka

Case Studies & Research
New York
Population Council
38 p.

Being young and female are two central aspects of vulnerability to HIV which intersect in the lives of adolescent girls. Both before and within marriage, girls and young women are especially vulnerable to contracting HIV as a result of both their biological susceptibility as well as their relative powerlessness within sexual relationships, the primary means of transmission. Girls and young women are disproportionally infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. This is true throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, and it is the case in Zambia, one of the countries hardest hit by the HIV and AIDS epidemic. According to the 2007 DHS report, prevalence among 15-19 year old females is 5.7 percent (compared with 3.6 percent for males), and 11.8 percent among 20-24 year old females (compared to 5 percent for males). Like the adult female population, young female youth are twice as likely to be infected as male youth. The current study provides a descriptive analysis of how adolescent girls and young women construct notions of risk and safety, their perceptions of HIV risk in particular, and what strategies they develop to protect themselves. The study is based on data collected through interviews with 821 young women aged 15-24 from four communities of urban Lusaka, and supplemented by qualitative data from focus group discussions and in-depth interviews. It is envisioned that information derived from this study can inform the development of innovative programming for vulnerable girls and young women in Lusaka.

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