Teenage girls are significantly impacted by the global AIDS crisis, with around 30 adolescents becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, every hour, according to a new UNICEF report.
Out of the 30 hourly infections in 2017, about 20 were girls aged 15 to 19, which represents a "crisis of health as well as a crisis of agency," according to UNICEF.
Sure, there has been significant progress in the fight against AIDS in the last two decades, but the failure to prevent the disease from occurring among children is what's ultimately slowing the fight down, according to the report.
The Toll Of AIDS Among Teenage Girls
The epidemic's spread among teenage girls roots from a number of factors, including early sex, poverty, and lack of access to confidential counseling and testing services. An alarming number of teenage girls are also contracting HIV via forced sex, or being powerless when it comes to negotiating around sex.
"In most countries, women and girls lack access to information, to services, or even just the power to say no to unsafe sex," according to Henrietta Fore, executive director at UNICEF. "HIV thrives among the most vulnerable and marginalized, leaving teenage girls at the center of the crisis."
AIDS Death Toll Dwindling, But New Infections Surge
The report says that 130,000 people under the age of 19 died from AIDS last year, and 430,000 were newly infected. Girls are bearing the brunt of the global epidemic, making up approximately two-thirds of both the new cases and the total amount of cases. While deaths for all other age groups have been decreasing since 2010, there has been no reduction in the mortality rate for teens. In total, around 1.2 million people belonging to this age group were living with HIV during 2017.
"We need to make girls and women secure enough economically that they don't have to turn to sex work," said Angelique Kidjo, a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF who contributed to the report. "We need to make sure they have the right information about how HIV is transmitted and how to protect themselves."
On a brighter note, the report does bear some slightly uplifting news. The number of new infections among children aged under 4 has dropped by one-third between 2010 and 2017, and 80 percent of pregnant women living with HIV are accessing treatment to reduce the risk of giving birth to HIV babies.
There has also been some improvement in the southern Africa region, which has long been the supposed epicenter of the AIDS crisis.