African women are at risk of contracting HIV through poverty

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NOS News

  • Ellen Van Gelder

    Africa Reporter

  • Saskia Houtwin

    Africa Reporter

  • Ellen Van Gelder

    Africa Reporter

  • Saskia Houtwin

    Africa Reporter

How do you make sure fewer young women are infected with HIV? In Africa, where the number of infections is still on the rise in some countries, women are trying to turn the tide in various ways.

On World AIDS Day, NOS spoke with so-called change-makers in Mali, Kenya and South Africa. “boyfriends Need to take more responsibility.”

Worldwide, more than twenty million girls and women are living with HIV. In a recent report, the United Nations warned that 4,900 girls and young women are becoming infected every week, 82% of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa. On the African continent, adolescent girls and young women are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than their male peers.

Difficulty submitting claims

“In many countries, men are still dominant and there are unequal power relations,” says activist Said Brown. The 27-year-old South African was born with HIV, but it was only discovered in her teens. “If a man doesn’t want to use contraceptives, you don’t have much to say. There’s also a lot of sexual violence here.”

This, too, has something to do with poverty, says Brown: “In South Africa, many young women have relationships with older men who buy things for them. These are often thought of as girls who have sugar daddiesWho want a luxurious lifestyle. But this also applies to young women who need 1.50 euros to buy bread. However, it is difficult for a woman to make demands.

Lack of information

The situation is similar in Kenya, says Lucy Njenga of Young Positive Voices.. She founded this organization after she herself contracted HIV ten years ago. Its aim is to warn Kenyan women of the dangers.

Teenage girls in slums are particularly at risk, says Njenga. Almost a hundred Kenyan girls between the ages of 10 and 19 contract the virus every week. “A shocking number,” says Njenga. As in South Africa, sex means escaping poverty for many girls. “Sometimes it goes so far that they actually do it for a box of sanitary towels.”

Condom shortage

In addition, Kenya suffers from a shortage of condoms. Where they were previously distributed free at pharmacies and hospitals, many sponsors have pulled out in recent years. Health organizations warn that this could lead to an increase in teenage pregnancies and HIV infection.

“Also, let’s not forget the lack of information,” says Njenga. “There are still many misconceptions out there about how you get HIV and what the risks are. A lot of people think that HIV isn’t such a big deal anymore, because you can be treated for it and live with it. They think it’s not anxiety like pregnancy adolescent girls, which is why some girls may choose contraception rather than condoms.”

France Press agency

Teachers blow up condoms on a university campus in Nairobi as part of a fun campaign on World AIDS Day

Lack of information is also a major problem in Mali in West Africa. Adam Yattasi, who works for ARCAD-SIDA, sees conservative influences at play as well. “For example, we see a lot of girls ending up in polygamous marriages,” she says. “These are marriages with relationships between different generations, sex is hardly talked about.”

The taboos surrounding sex in Mali make it difficult for girls to understand the risks. This also applies to young sex workers, who are flocking in increasing numbers to the gold mines. “Girls are between the ages of 14 and 15,” says Atasai. “Sometimes they sell their bodies to one man, sometimes to groups of miners. This is really something from recent years. When we did research in a mining area in 2018, we found very high seropositivity.”

Talk talk talk

According to South African Lady Brown, young women in her country are increasingly learning how to protect themselves. “He asks me regularly about PrEP, the daily pill you take to prevent HIV. But that’s not readily available. South Africa is starting a trial with an injection of PrEP that you take every month, and that would be a really big deal here. A breakthrough,” says Brown. .

In Mali and Kenya, organizations are focusing on a different priority: speaking, speaking, speaking. “It’s not just with girls,” says Lucy Njenga from Kenya. “Parents also have to be involved. Many people think their daughter won’t go out on the street to have sex so quickly. We often have to explain that it’s a real risk. And of course men, boyfriends. They also have to understand that they have a responsibility and that they too are in danger.”

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