Child Marriage and HIV

Four facts you need to know: child marriage and HIV


By Matilda Branson, Policy Officer, Girls Not Brides
With the Durban International AIDS Conference just around the corner, we’ve put together a list of four important facts you need to know on the links between child marriage and HIV.
1. Adolescent girls are disproportionately affected by child marriage and HIV
Every year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. Although boys are sometimes married off, child marriage is driven by gender inequality and disproportionately affects girls.
Young women and girls are also disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV; of all new HIV infections among young people aged 10–24 years, approximately two out of three are among girls and young women.
This is all the more worrying because AIDS is now the leading cause of death among adolescents (10-19) in Africa, and the second most common cause of death among adolescents globally. 

2. Child marriage makes girls more vulnerable to becoming infected with HIV
Married adolescent girls tend to have higher HIV infection rates than their unmarried, sexually active peers. This is due to a number of reasons:
  • Child brides have little say in how they practise their sexuality, because of their young age and limited power in the relationship, leaving them unable to negotiate safer sex or refuse sex altogether.
  • Child brides are more likely to contract HIV over their lifetime, as their husbands have often had sexual partners before them.
  • They are also more vulnerable to intimate partner violence, a factor that has been shown to increase the likelihood of contracting HIV.
  • Girls generally are less well informed than boys about HIV and how to protect themselves.

3. Child brides are often unable to access HIV information and programmes 
Though child brides desperately need sexual health information and services, they are often isolated – both geographically and socially –and unable to access them. Once married, girls are often taken out of schools where they would have better access to programmes related to sexual health.
Child brides are also often unaware that such information and services are available to them, making it significantly harder to effectively prevent and treat HIV among them.

4. To tackle the spread of HIV, we must prioritize girls at risk of child marriage and married girls
We know that child marriage increases girls’ likelihood of contracting HIV, and that child brides often struggle to access the information and services they need to prevent or treat HIV.
As long as we ignore the specific needs of child brides, girls, and those at risk of child marriage, HIV programmes will fail to effectively curb the epidemic.

For further details on facts surrounding HIV and child marriage, head over to our reports section.
Artilce copied from

Uganda: Project Helps Young People With Sexual Health Info and Rights

In Uganda, many young people lack access to quality information on sexual and reproductive health, but a project called Link Up is helping to change this.
Many young girls work in a risky environment like bars, kiosks, or lodges at a tender age in order to earn a living. Lydia* is a 17-year-old adolescent girl working in one of the top bars in Mukono, Uganda. She said: "I have to work to get what I eat and mostly in the night in order to get more money."
At times, adolescents can take risks in their behavior, which can lead to sexual and reproductive health problems. Young people need information about sexual and reproductive health and rights to help them deal with the changes they are going through, at this critical stage of their lives - but this can often be difficult for them to access.
Access to sexual and reproductive health services
HIV is a particular sexual health issue for young people - as they account for 40 per cent of all new HIV infections. AIDS is also the leading cause of death for adolescents in Africa, and the second leading cause among adolescents globally (UNAIDS).
Tabitha is a young mother living with HIV and one of the young people who accesses services from Namutumba health center 111, supported through the Link Up project. She said: "We have a youth-friendly corner at the facility where we access services like family planning, and HIV counselling and testing. This has reduced stigma and discrimination among people."
The Link Up project is being led by a consortium of partners, including the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, and works with young people who are often marginalised and struggle to access HIV services. CYSRA-Uganda is one of the implementing partners of Link Up and raising awareness and ensuring the health of adolescents and young people is at the heart of what they do. They conduct community dialogues with service providers and pass on technical skills about how to handle clients and how to create a good environment with easy access to services.
Harriet Anyango, a service provider in Busia Health center, said: "Sexually active adolescents are not well trained to seek health care. We receive adolescents here for health care after getting pregnant but it's rare to work on one who is not pregnant." This shows that access to sexual and reproductive health information is still low in Busia district.
Barriers to adolescent health care
Existing sexual and reproductive health services are often not accessible, acceptable and appropriate for adolescents due to issues like lack of knowledge and information, fear of stigma and discrimination, and poor or expensive transport to facilities.
Many people confirm this. Ssemakula is a man who has sex with men, and is a peer educator working with the Most at Risk Population Initiative (MARPI) in Kampala. He says: "Men who have sex with men are vulnerable to violence, exploitation by police and less able to access health care preventative services. There are few care centers where we can access services without harassments."
Dr Benna, assistant district health educator in Busia district, said: "The most significant barrier to health care among adolescents is low levels of education and knowledge. Young people have less formal education and less sex education. They experience internalised stigma and more social isolation and are less able to ask adults for support in decision-making."
Some young people lack support from their parents to seek health services, for example when they need their parents' consent to test for HIV. It is also a big challenge for young people whose parents have died, and also those who are students from foreign countries as they lack adult support.
Despite these challenges, some existing projects in Uganda like Link Up, VIJANA, THE PACT, and ACT! 2015 are making things easier for young people to access services and get information free from coercion or threat of violence. This has been done through involving them in decisions and planning about service provision. Some of them have also been trained as sexual and reproductive health and rights ambassadors. There is a long way to go before all young people can access the information and services they need for sexual and reproductive health, but small steps are making all the difference.
*Name changed to protect identity
First published in

HIV in Zimbabwe: Is condom use really working?

It is so saddening to note that despite Zimbabweans being the highest condom users in the world, the HIV/Aids prevalence rate still remains one of the highest in the world, and one wonders whether promoting condoms use is as effective as the world has been made to believe.

The latest HIV/Aids statistics in Zimbabwe show that the prevalence rate is still very high at 15% as in 2014, whilst in the same year condom usage was reported to have been 104 million male, and 5.2 million female condoms – the highest in the world.

So the question is: why is the prevalence rate still so high in Zimbabwe?

Obviously, this question can never be adequately answered without a nearly impossible thorough investigation, but there is always room for debate and discussion on the matter, by using current information regarding condom use and HIV/Aids prevention.

In their report entitled ‘Condom Promotion for Aids Prevention in the Developing World: Is it working?’, Norman Hearst, a professor at the University of California, and Sanny Chen, an epidemiologist with the San Francisco Department of Health, aptly said that ‘measuring condom efficacy is nearly impossible’, although 90% is commonly accepted.

They further stated that 90% efficacy could not be enough for condoms to be considered as an effective means in Aids prevention.

They noted that, ‘in many sub-Saharan African countries high HIV transmission rates have continued despite high rates of condom use’, Zimbabwe being a very good example.

The report said that ‘no clear examples have emerged yet of a country that has turned back a generalised epidermic primarily by means of condom promotion’.

This is disturbing in light of the over-emphasis on condom use as an effective measure in the prevention of HIV/Aids that has taken root in most campaigns in this country, and indeed, the rest if the Southern African region.

The slogan of ‘condomising’ has reached obscene levels, with even suggestions of placing condoms in schools being debated.

Are we callous with our children’s lives that we are prepared to mislead them into their own graves?

If we ourselves as parents are not concerned about our own lives, that is no reason to destroy our children with us.

The message of HIV/Aids should be honestly and clearly told to our children, so that they may make informed decisions about their own lives.

Actually, it is widely accepted that Uganda’s earlier success story in their HIV/Aids prevention campaigns where premised on their focus on delayed sexual activity among adolescents, promotion of abstinence, and encouraging faithfulness to a single partner, and very minimal emphasis on condom use.

Zambia and Tanzania’s reduction of HIV prevalence in pregnant women has been largely credited to the reduction in the numbers in sexual partners.

The British Medical Journal of April 10 2004, stated that ‘it seems obvious, but there would be no global Aids pandemic were it not for multiple sexual partnerships’, published in an article entitled ‘Partner reduction is critical for balanced ‘ABC’ approach to HIV prevention’.

The article doubted the wisdom of the promotion of condom use above mutual fidelity and partner reduction.

Writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dr. Joe Mcllhaney Jr. the president of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, Austin, Texas, noted that the consequences of relying on condoms could be grave, saying that, ‘based on the science and the science alone, there is only one conclusion: condoms do not make sex safe enough’.

He further stated that while condoms could reduce some risks, they still often left individuals vulnerable to infection.

A report to the United Stated of America (US) Congress by the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by its Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said that the best way to avoid HPV (a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer and commonly associated with HIV) was by having only one uninfected partner.

She went on to say that most studies had shown that condoms did not prevent the spread of HPV.

Helen Epstein, a visiting research scholar at the Centre for Health and Wellness at Princeton University, said that efforts aimed at stopping the spread of HIV had had disappointing results because of ignoring fidelity, by promoting condom use, and that this ‘may well have undermined efforts to fight the epidermic’.

She bemoaned the fact that ‘government planning documents, United Nations agency reports, Aids awareness campaigns, and Aids education curriculum are strangely silent on the subject (of fidelity)’.

This all says a lot about Zimbabwe’s own HIV/Aids prevention strategy, which has been nothing short of suicidal, as the emphasis on condom use has been over-glorified.

The nation, especially the youth, need to be made aware that condoms are not as effective as they have been made to appear.

The fact of the matter is that HIV/Aids is a multi-billion dollar business for most organisations and companies, and the money racked in from condom production, ARV sales, and even NGOs involved in HIV/Aids can only be sustained by the continued peddling of this fallacy that condomising is the best way to go.

An ‘Aids-free’ world would not be good for business.

The truth is that people can be educated, as witnessed by the huge uptake of the condom usage message that our country has been selling for years – albeit without any significant reduction in HIV prevalence rates.

Therefore, if the nation can easily take up such a message, why are we not focussing on abstinence and faithfulness as the primary message of the campaign against HIV/Aids?

Judging from how the Ebola message and the seriousness in which it was handled by East African countries, with the assistance of the global community, I have no doubt that if Zimbabwe – with the combined efforts of other nations – applied the same seriousness to the prevention of HIV/Aids, this region could soon be declared ‘Aids-free’.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, journalist, and writer. He writes in his personal capacity. He welcomes and appreciated feedback. Please feel free to call/WhatsApp:+263782283975, or email:

Taken from The Zimbabwean, Feb 2016 


“One of the best ways to fight stigma and empower HIV positive people is by speaking out openly and honestly about who we are and what we experience.”
~ Alex Garner, HIV Activist ~

We live in a globe of stigma and intolerance, too often, coming out to say your status is met with anger, criticism, and possibly even hostility. The most common emotion that people experience upon learning that they are HIV positive is shame. It is a critical and paralyzing emotion that has no advantages and serves no purpose. Speaking out is one of the best remedy to shame. When people speak openly and boldly about their HIV status, we can find genuineness and empowerment that can help to foster a stronger and healthier society.

World AIDS day is celebrated every year all over the world on 1st of December to raise the public awareness about AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). AIDS is a pandemic caused due to the infection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The day is celebrated by the government organisations, NGOs, civil societies and other health institutions, dedicated to commemorate those who have passed on and to raise awareness about AIDS and the global spread of the HIV virus.

The first World AIDS Day was held in 1988 after health ministers from around the world met in London, England and agreed to such a day as a way of highlighting the enormity of the AIDS pandemic and nations’ responsibility to ensure universal treatment, care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

The World Assembly of Youth (WAY) aspires to continue encouraging all members to organise programmes to combat the causes of AIDS pandemics and other deadly diseases. We prioritise in bringing awareness about the HIV/AIDS issue to the youth globally.  In 2006, WAY published a book entitled ‘World Responses to HIV/AIDS Pandemic’ available at the following link:

We believe it is the opportunity for young people to work actively and collaboratively with partners and other stakeholders around the world to raise awareness about HIV and help us move closer to the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

Happy World AIDS Day!

Update from UNICEF on World AIDS Day

Dear Colleagues,

This World AIDS Day UNICEF is pleased to share with you our annual Statistical Update on the situation of Children, Adolescents and AIDS.

As the MDG’s draw to a close, we have successes to celebrate. We took the time to look back 15 years and captured a snapshot of what has been collectively accomplished in PMTCT since 2000. Footage was pulled from UNICEF archives, or contributed by partners. You might even find yourself in there. Please share widely!

Ours is a history in which the world worked together to make a miracle happen. 
WATCH: #AIDSFreeGen #WAD2015

In addition our regular website includes:
·         Executive Summary
·         Key Charts & Infographics
·         Statistical Tables
·         Global Charts & Figures
·         Regional Charts & Figures
o   Eastern and Southern Africa
o   West and Central Africa
o   Middle East and North Africa
o   East Asia and the Pacific
o   South Asia
o   Latin America and the Caribbean


Kenya launches technology to ‘fast track’ HIV/AIDS management and control

Kenya has launched a new technology to enable it track progress and identify gaps in HIV programming in the country.Dubbed the Kenya HIV Situation Room, the technology is set to enable quick feedback on results at both the county and community levels and identify any bottlenecks and access issues.The technology is also expected to speed up and streamline communications between policy-makers and implementers.

Speaking at the launch of the innovative tool, President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta expressed satisfaction at his government’s ability to get the technology fully enrolled. Adding that the move has been influenced by the policy of the government to “make the use of ICT a priority.”
The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé who jointly launched the program with President Kenyatta was also hopeful of its sustainability by President Kenyatta’s government. He added that the technology “can serve in a similar manner to track progress against other diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria.”
Latest data from the Kenya HIV Situation Room shows that Kenya is close to having 800 000 people on treatment.
The Kenya HIV Situation Room will enable AIDS programme staff to localize where efforts need to be intensified. This more accurate programming will help to ensure that mothers have access to HIV testing early on in their pregnancy, that children living with HIV have regular access to care and treatment and that antiretroviral medicines are replenished quickly should stock-outs occur.
The Government of Kenya and UNAIDS have worked together to bring four different data sets into one tool: data from the District Health Information System; information from the Kenya Medical Supply Agency; Kenya’s HIV estimates; and data from the National AIDS Control Council on programme implementers and service delivery.
The Kenya HIV Situation Room, developed by the National AIDS Control Council and the Kenyan Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNAIDS, is supported by the Government of Japan, which contributed resources as part of its continued support to improving monitoring and evaluation of the global AIDS epidemic.
Source: GNA
- See more at:

ALL IN to #EndAdolescentAIDS launched February 17, 2015 from Nairobi, Kenya

ALL IN to #EndAdolescentAIDS launched February 17, 2015 from Nairobi, Kenya with an audience of distinguished delegates from Kenya and around the world, including President Uhuru Kenyatta. Adolescents also arrived in the hundreds.

Explore highlights from the event’s key sessions and statements from global leaders:

Dialogue with
MTV Staying Alive Foundation presents ​Shuga
President Kenyatta 

Video Messages from WHO and UNFPA were part of the event as well.

We are also pleased to unveil the new ALL IN web portal.

Please also find key supporting materials and information here, including:

Be part of ALL IN! Join the conversation:

Empowerment of Women as a Sure Way of Reducing the Spread of HIV/AIDS

Leonorah Kwamboka
When we talk in discussions and conferences on women empowerment we mainly discuss the economic benefits of empowering women however when the social aspects are discussed little is said about empowerment being a way of reducing the HIV/AIDS spread. As the title suggests, this article is about how empowering women will reduce the spread and vulnerability of getting infected among women as well as men.

To begin with, women’s economic dependence increases their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. Most women and girls opt to get into other means of earning a livelihood like prostitution due to lack of finances to sustain themselves. In prostitution, women hardly get the opportunity to negotiate for safe sex which thus exposes them to a high risk of sexually transmitted diseases and emotional distress.

Most African societies have always and still practise wife inheritance. A woman who depended on her husband will have no choice but accept being inherited so that she can have someone to take care of her and her children. If the dead husband or incoming husband is infected with HIV/AIDS then this will further increase the chances of the spread of the virus.

Secondly, a woman who is not empowered lacks the sense of assertiveness that would make it easy for her to decline sexual advances from men without fearing to provoke the man. Violence against women has been a major factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls especially sexual violence perpetuated by infected men. According to researchers Heise, Ellsberg and Gottemoeller, in population-based studies conducted worldwide, anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of women report physical assault by partner and one third to half of physically abused women also report sexual coercion. (Geeta Rao Gupta, International Centre for Research on Women)

Thirdly, many societies have a culture that considers it taboo to openly address issues of sexuality which results in many women being ignorant about safe sex practises. Further, under these cultural norms and practises women have no or less power in matters of sex leaving all the power with the male partners who dictate the when and how of sex. This deters women from being informed about the risks involved in sex and their preventive measures; even when they are informed they are unable to negotiate for safe sex due to existing power relations that are influenced by the patriarchal system in these societies.  

Finally virginity, something women are still expected to uphold in many societies until marriage, is also a factor which contributes to the ignorance that surrounds sexuality and thus aid the spread of HIV/AIDS.  This societal expectation holds girls from seeking relevant information on sex lest they be considered sexually active. This ultimately means girls grow up well into young adults without the right information on safe sex and in most cases with distorted notions and beliefs on sexuality. When they finally become sexually active, because they are not well informed, they are not in a position and do have the courage to say no to sexual advances or report cases of rape when they happen. They may thus get infected with HIV/AIDS.

Women empowerment enhances financial stability among women so that they are able to take care of themselves reducing the need for such practises like prostitution and wife inheritance. The empowered woman not only has the power to make assertive decisions but also has multiple options and the freedom to choose the kind of life she wants to lead. She can also assert herself in any sexual relationship she gets into with the power to negotiate for safe sex, when and how to engage in sex without any fear of violence or reprimands.

Further, a comprehensive sex education need to be introduced and actively implemented in all societal institutions like mainstream educational institutions at all levels, churches, open public forums and open discussions encouraged within households. This education should focus on both girls and boys and should focus on such things as the risks involved in unsafe sexual activities, the proper use of contraceptives and HIV/AIDS.