Adolescent Girls and Young Women: Key Populations for HIV Epidemic Control

April 2015 - Structural Prevention

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Dellar, R. C., Dlamini, S., Karim, Q. A. Journal of the International AIDS Society (February 2015), Vol 18, Issue 2, Supplement 1, doi: 10.7448/IAS.18.2.19408.

This article urged attention to girls and young women as critical populations within the HIV epidemic. Young women are at increased risk for HIV acquisition for many reasons: age-disparate and intergenerational sexual relationships, early sexual debut, limited schooling, food insecurity, loss of a family member, and gender-based violence. Additionally, younger women are more biologically susceptible to HIV infection compared to older women. Some programs have demonstrated success in improving young women's HIV knowledge and attitudes and uptake of HIV testing. For example, a recent randomized controlled cash transfer trial in Lesotho of financial incentives reduced the probability of acquiring HIV by 25 percent over two years. School and community-based education programs are commonplace in many settings, but the few that were evaluated did not demonstrate efficacy in preventing HIV infection. The authors stressed that action is needed to mobilize and empower this key population to mediate their own risk, especially for those women who cannot negotiate monogamy, condom use, or male circumcision with their sexual partners. Efforts should focus on the development of new biomedical, structural, and behavioral HIV prevention programs for this group. The authors also recommended including adolescents in biomedical HIV prevention trials, and providing accessible and integrated sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention services for this population.

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