HIV/AIDS: GIRLS ARE MOST VULNERABLE.

By Leonorah Kwamboka

Sella steps outs of the doctor’s office after undergoing a contraceptive procedure. She feels secure. No fear of unwanted pregnancy or the problems associated with premature pregnancies. She is now safe. But is she safe from HIV/AIDS.

Sella is just one of the numerous girls whose greatest fear is getting pregnant. I have interacted with many girls of my age and one thing I have realized is that they fear getting pregnant than getting infected with HIV/AIDS. Confirmation from most boys is that their girlfriends always get scared of pregnancy as compared to HIV/AIDS infection.

According to The Kenya AIDS Response Progress Report (2014) the current rates In Kenya have young girls of age fifteen to twenty four being higher than that of their male counterparts. The odds of being infected with HIV are higher among young women aged 1524 years compared to young men in the same age group. This high rate also corresponds to old men of fifty and above implying that the older men commonly referred to as 'sugar daddies' take advantage of these young girls by luring them with gifts, money and other luxuries. These girls, most from poor backgrounds, fall prey to these sugar daddies who expose them to HIV/AIDS infection.

There is a common slogan that The Youth are Tomorrow’s Leaders, Tomorrow’s Hope but what will tomorrow be like if most girls became sick and dependent today? We need every one of us to shape the tomorrow we want. Especially in Africa where the rate of infections is very high.

Girls need to be well informed that the contraceptives address just a part of the problems that result from irresponsible sexual behaviour. There are many sexually transmitted diseases besides HIV/AIDS whose impact is worse than the 'feared' pregnancies. As such, from an early age girls need to be trained, sensitized and exposed to different aspects of social skills, decision making, critical thinking and assertiveness. They should grow up knowing their body belongs to them and have the bravery to say no to irresponsible sexual behaviour, stand firm, and know how to deal with somebody forcing them into sex. 

Economic empowerment of girls is also a major factor; girls should be able to live within their means without expecting financial help from men in exchange of sexual favours. To be financially independent will require these girls to work hard both in school and in other income generating activities when they come of age.

Finally, Comprehensive Sexuality Education is very important. If well administered the youth grow up empowered with information that will enable them make informed choices as regards sexual activities in light of the consequences of irresponsible sexual behaviour.

The youth are the future and the future depends on how strong we fight today. Let's stand firm and fight HIV/AIDS together, girls included, with the three R’s in mind; 
R-Relationships 
R-Rights
R-Responsibility
What are our relationships, do we know our rights and how responsible are we?