UN agencies are revising the approach on the fight against HIV among adolescents in a new Platform of Action dubbed ALL-IN.
Initiated by UNAIDS and UNICEF, the ALL-IN platform seeks to strengthen youth-led social movements, engage more young people in the effort and increase their meaningful participation in decision-making processes.
It is derived from a fact that while major advances have been made in almost every area of the response to HIV, progress for adolescents is falling behind; making AIDS the leading cause of death for adolescents in Africa.
Up to 2.1 million adolescents are living with HIV, according to data released last year.
“AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa. Globally, two thirds of all new infections among adolescents were among adolescent girls. This is a moral injustice,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS at the official launch of the all in initiative in Nairobi, last evening.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake augmented the call saying children and young people should be the first to benefit from the progress made in ending the epidemic, not the last,”.
“We need to reach the adolescents we are missing and engage all young people in the effort to end adolescent AIDS. In fact, we cannot achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation without them,” Lake added.
Sophie Barton-Knott, from UNAIDS, explains that the new ALL IN platform of action will focus on engaging, mobilizing and empowering adolescents as leaders and as actors of change.
According to UNAIDS, Most of the targeted adolescents became infected at least 10 years ago, when their mothers were pregnant, during delivery or in the first months of life—at a time when prevention of mother to child initiatives were not extensively available. Many were never diagnosed, lost to follow-up or fell out of treatment and care programmes.
Since the HIV status of many children went undiagnosed 10 to 15 years ago, they are now entering adolescence unaware that they are living with the virus, with limited opportunities for HIV detection and referral to treatment programmes.
“We can’t say that we are on the right track to end AIDS if it continues being the main cause of death for adolescents in Africa,” said Pablo Aguilera, Executive Director of the HIV Young Leaders Fund and Co-Chair of the PACT. “We must ensure that no adolescent is left behind.”
UNAIDS has set new Fast-Track Targets to be achieved by 2020 for adolescents that include reducing new HIV infections by at least 75%, reducing AIDS-related deaths by 65% and achieving zero discrimination.