Road accidents and injury are the number one killer of adolescents globally, said Michael Hollingdale, a UNAIDS spokesman while global health organizations report that AIDS is now the leading cause of death for adolescents in Africa, and the second leading cause of death among adolescents.
Eight international organizations launched a global campaign in Kenya to stem the spread among adolescents. About 120,000 people aged between 10-19 years died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2013 and adolescent girls, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, are most affected.
AdvertisementGirls are more vulnerable because of physiological factors that see them more susceptible to infection, said Dr. Lilian Otiso, director of services at LVCT Health, an NGO that deals with AIDs prevention and treatment across Kenya.
In South Africa in 2013, more than 860 girls became infected with HIV every week, compared to 170 boys, they said.
Dr. Lilian said, social-economic factors that see girls having sex at younger ages than their male peers also play a major role. They might date older men who can provide for them.
A 16 year old pregnant Kenyan girl was unaware how she was infected with HIV. She indulged in multiple relationships to support her siblings after her mother died of AIDS. "I did not know how I contracted the virus. I had many boyfriends. I was with those boyfriends because life forced me to that situation because I was looking to survive so I was forced to do so," said the Kenyan girl.
The global campaign, called "All In" will seek to address the imbalance by encouraging strategic changes in policy and involving more young people in the effort, the organizations said. Most of the 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV in 2013 became infected at least 10 years ago. Their mothers were pregnant and delivered at a time when anti-retro viral medicines that can greatly reduce the possibility of HIV transmission were not available, the organizations said.
UNAIDS said, by providing more counseling as well as education outreach to a targeted adolescent age-range globally, it aims to reduce HIV infections in adolescents by 75 percent, and AIDS-related deaths by 65 percent by 2020.