Adolescent HIV Prevention

AIDS is the second leading cause of death among young women (15–24 years) in Africa. The majority of these deaths are among adolescents who acquired HIV as babies and lived to their teenage years - yet did not survive for reasons including never having been diagnosed with HIV, having slipped out of care, or not having responded successfully to HIV treatment.

New HIV infections among adolescents are projected to decrease by 23 per cent between 2018 and 2030, which is not enough to meet global targets. Of the 590,000 young people (ages 15–24) who were newly infected with HIV in 2017, almost one-half (250,000) were adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19. In sub-Saharan Africa, 3 in 4 new infections in 15–19 year olds are among girls and 2 in 3 adolescents living with HIV are girls. Higher fertility rates and increased child survival in many lower- and middle-income countries has created a rising cohort of adolescents and young adults, and combined with slow progress in HIV prevention in young populations, the epidemic seems far from over. Projections show that at the current rate of HIV incidence, without acceleration of efforts and investment, a total of 2.0 million adolescents could become newly infected with HIV between 2018 and 2030.

Globally, treatment and care responses for adolescents have lagged significantly behind paediatric and adult treatment programmes. Many of the adolescents living with HIV today were infected with HIV as infants. This rising cohort of adolescents living with HIV, combined with lack of access to testing, treatment and counselling, has contributed to the persistent numbers of in AIDS-related deaths among adolescents. Sexual transmission and injection drug use continue to be the main modes of transmission among adolescents who were not infected during infancy.

Critical services for prevention, treatment and care remain out of reach or are inadequately designed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable adolescents. UNICEF, UNAIDS and other global health partners launched the ALL IN to #EndAdolescentAIDS agenda to mobilize support and strengthen programme action for adolescents in general as well as targeted approaches for those at even greater risk, including members of key populations such as adolescent boys who have sex with other males and adolescents who use drugs.