Feature story

The urgency of HIV prevention among adolescent girls and young women

01 June 2023

My name is Naadu Awuradwoa Addico and I work as a Project Officer at Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG). On 24 May, I participated in a Ministerial meeting organized by the Global HIV Prevention Coalition titled High-Level Dialogue on accelerating HIV prevention and preparing for future pandemics.

In that meeting I shared the story of Abena, a young woman from Ghana who, at age 19, contracted HIV from a 40-year-old man who coerced her into transactional sex with the promise to fund her high school fees.

While I avoid the obvious details, I ask: What if Abena was empowered to negotiate for safer sex? What if she had access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)? What if she lived in a community with robust social support systems that catered for her needs?

You see, these are some of the reasons why HIV prevention cannot wait!

Many adolescent girls like Abena face poverty, disability, marginalization, discrimination and exploitation. These factors perpetuate HIV transmission and hinder an effective response to AIDS. Just last year, an adolescent girl or young woman acquired HIV every two minutes.

This is beyond alarming!

Policies and laws must allow girls to not only access HIV prevention services like PrEP, but also to complete their education regardless of their background and circumstances. Abena need not have paid such a heavy price to get the support she needed for her schooling.

In reference to the popular saying ‘teamwork makes the dream work’, young women and girls have a crucial part to play on this journey of ending AIDS. So, I appealed to Governments in the meeting as well as global leaders, donors and all stakeholders to provide resources and commit to ensuring girls like Abena can have equal access to knowledge, support and safe spaces to remain HIV free.

When you are developing and implementing HIV prevention programmes for young people and making critical decisions about our health and well-being, let our voices be heard and echoed. We want to work with you.

Related: UNAIDS alerts countries to an unprecedented opportunity to stop new HIV infections, end AIDS and prepare for future pandemics