Fast-Tracking the AIDS response for young women and adolescent girls in Africa

08 June 2015

Considerable advances have been made in the global response to the AIDS epidemic over the last decades. Despite this progress, however, young women and adolescent girls in Africa are still being left behind.

In the sub-Saharan region, AIDS-related illnesses remain the leading cause of death among girls and women of reproductive age. In 2013, 74% of new HIV infections among African adolescents were among adolescent girls. Young women and adolescent girls acquire HIV on average five to seven years earlier than young men, and in some countries in the region HIV prevalence among this population can be as much as seven times that of their male counterparts.

In order to guide regional and global advocacy and inform political dialogue on HIV prevention and treatment among young women and adolescent girls, UNAIDS and the African Union have launched a joint report entitled Empower young women and adolescent girls: Fast-Tracking the end of the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

The document outlines three political commitments to advance the rights and empowerment of Africa’s young women and girls to help Fast-Track an AIDS response firmly rooted in gender equality and social justice. The commitments are to stop new HIV infections among young women and adolescent girls in order to ensure that AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death among adolescents; to empower young women and adolescent girls through comprehensive sexuality education; and to prevent HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive.

The launch took place on 8 June as part of the 26th Gender is My Agenda Campaign pre-summit to the African Union meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.


“It is fitting that this report is launched here in Africa, as this is the epicentre of the global AIDS epidemic. It is here that we must Fast-Track our responses in order to help end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”

Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Malawi

“The commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 cannot be attained unless a strategic and comprehensive focus is placed on young women and adolescent girls in every single African country.”

Fatima Acyl, African Union

“In the absence of a vaccine, ending gender-based violence, keeping girls in school and empowering young women and adolescent girls are the best options we have available.”

Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS Regional Director of the Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa

“We need to educate our children to speak out and we need to speak to them their own language. They need to know that HIV is real. The best teacher is the mother and the best place to educate young women and girls is in the home.”

Judith Sephuma, South African jazz artist

“As we work with our communities, our networks, our health service providers and our governments, we must commit to demanding a comprehensive focus on young women in the AIDS response.”

Rosemary Museminali, UNAIDS Representative to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa