Information key to eliminating HIV among adolescents
By Daniel Otieno
| June 10th 2017
The youth and adolescents go through various reproductive health challenges and concerns during transition to adulthood. Lack of reproductive health information and services, negative attitudes of health workers, limited youth friendly services, stigma and discrimination and influence of the media make young people more vulnerable to HIV.
Different interventions have been undertaken and progress made to save adolescents from the scourge of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Included are peer education and voluntary counseling and HIV testing. There exist several other opportunities that when adopted can help reduce HIV among adolescents.
First is meaningful involvement of the target audience, who are the young people in developing adolescent and youth HIV prevention programmes. By allowing young people to provide information on how best they can protect themselves, they will develop ownership of HIV prevention programmes and therefore contribute to programme success.
Secondly, negative attitudes of health workers that portray youth seeking HIV treatment as immoral prevents many from seeking the services. Programmes should invest in training health workers in value clarification and attitude transformation.
This will improve attitudes of health workers when offering information and services. Increased provision of youth friendly services will also reduce new infections. We must go above the 12 per cent of public health facilities that offer youth friendly services.
Third, we must make resources for preventing HIV available. Collaboration with development partners is important but we must also focus on sustainability of HIV prevention. Withdrawal of donor funds should not lead to increased HIV infections or loss of gains.
We must use the minimum resources at our disposal to prevent HIV among young people. At the school level, comprehensive sexuality education plays an important role. We must build the capacity of teachers to offer age-appropriate information on sexuality.
Young people are also frequent users of social media. Training journalists on reporting reproductive and health issues in young people should be a best practice in sharing information on reproductive health. Awareness creation that targets elimination of stigma and discrimination in learning institutions and general community will promote positive living with HIV and therefore avert deaths.
Finally, learning institutions must be supported to establish support clubs that will promote positive living for families affected and living with HIV. Daniel Otieno, Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa, Nairobi
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