‘Stigmatisation still rife among HIV-positive girls’

Young girls living with HIV and Aids are finding it difficult to disclose their status to their partners for fear of breaking up their relationships, an Aids activist has said.

BY XOLISANI NCUBE

Briefing journalists during a tour in Kadoma rural, Lesiwe Makumbe, a co-ordinator for adolescents living with HIV and Aids, said a number of young girls in relationships were defaulting on their medication due to discrimination and fear of losing their partners, thus exposing themselves to opportunistic infections.

“Most of them, once they get a boyfriend and the relationship seems to be heading towards marriage, they default.

They don’t disclose to their suitors. They fear to be ditched by these guys,” Makumbe said.

The number of adolescents dying of Aids-related illnesses tripled between 2000 and 2015, latest statistics have shown

In 2016, over 55 000 adolescents between the ages of 10-19 died through Aids-related causes in Africa.

Aids is now the leading cause of death among young people in Africa and the second leading cause of death among young people worldwide. This is largely due to defaulting and lack of access to medication.

According to statistics from UNAids, a majority of young people living with HIV and Aids are in low and middle-income countries, with 84% of them being in sub-Saharan Africa.

Makumbe said from her interactions with the adolescents, stigma and fear of not getting married hindered adherence to medication.

At Donain Mine outside Kadoma, more than 90 young people were said to be living positively with HIV.
Worldwide, more than 10 million young people are currently living with HIV, and many lack access to treatment and care.

Research has revealed that young people have special difficulties in accepting HIV diagnosis, adhering to treatment and using HIV preventive measures. YPLHIV have cited serious challenges, including stigma, discrimination and disclosure. Programmatic strategies to address these concerns are still emerging.

Currently, over 30% of all new HIV infections globally are estimated to occur among the youth and new-born babies. According to the World Health Organisation, the two groups combined give a total of five million youth with HIV.

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