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'The fight is far from over': A teenage girl was infected with HIV every 3 minutes last year

Unicef is warning that the HIV/Aids epidemic is far from over and teenage girls are bearing the brunt of the health crisis.

AROUND 20 TEENAGE girls were infected with HIV every single hour during 2017, a new report from Unicef has revealed.

The report found that 130,000 people under the age of 19 died from AIDS last year and a further 430,000 were newly infected.

Girls are bearing the brunt of the epidemic, making up approximately two-thirds of both the new cases and the total amount of cases.

Unicef found that the epidemic’s spread among adolescent girls is being fuelled by early sex, forced sex, powerlessness in negotiating around sex, poverty and lack of access to confidential counselling and testing services.

“This is a crisis of health as well as a crisis of agency,” Unicef Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said.

In most countries, women and girls lack access to information, to services, or even just the power to say no to unsafe sex. HIV thrives among the most vulnerable and marginalized, leaving teenage girls at the centre of the crisis.

While deaths for all other age groups have been decreasing since 2010 there has been no reduction in the mortality rate for teens aged between 15 and 19 years old. In total, approximately 1.2 million people in this age group were living with HIV during 2017.

The report does contain some welcome news. The number of new infections among children aged under four-years-old has dropped by one-third in the past 8 years and 80% of pregnant women living with HIV are accessing treatment to reduce the risk of transmission to their babies.

There has also been significant developments in the southern Africa region, long the epicentre of the crisis.

Botswana and South Africa now have rates of mother to child transmission of only 5%, and the vast majority of women with HIV are on effective treatment regimens. In Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia nearly 100% of pregnant women know their HIV status.

However, despite these advancements, Fore added that “the fight is far from over.”

Women are the most affected by this epidemic – both in the number of infections and as chief caregivers for those with the disease – and should continue to be at the forefront of the fight against it.

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