Opinion: Stop the exclusion — the double stigma facing HIV-affected women and girls
In sub-Saharan Africa, 42% of adolescent girls and young women living in urban areas and more than 50% of those living in rural areas had a pregnancy before the age of 18. Adolescent girls also comprise the majority of new HIV infections in this region. Four of every 5 new HIV infections among people ages 15-19 occur among girls.
Miriam, whose last name is being omitted to protect her privacy, was born HIV-positive in Uganda and is an example of those at the center of these overlapping experiences. When, at 15 years old, she became involved with an older man, she had no knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, let alone access to contraception. And when she found out she was pregnant, Miriam was rejected by her family and her community and forced to leave home.
Young women like Miriam and their children are among the most vulnerable — yet too often the most excluded — population affected by HIV, facing double stigma.
When Miriam went to the local clinic for antenatal visits, the staff criticized her. If she arrived at the clinic alone, she would sometimes be refused care and told that she needed to be accompanied by a parent or partner. Thankfully, Miriam’s grandmother took her to a home for young mothers where she found a community of girls in similar circumstances.
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