The health and well-being of adolescent mothers and their children has been largely overlooked in the context of the global HIV response. The scale of vulnerability is significant:
- There are an estimated 11.4 million adolescent mothers in sub-Saharan Africa, most of whom live in adverse conditions.
- By the age of 18, 42% of adolescent girls and young women living in urban areas, and more than 50% of those living in rural areas, have been pregnant.
- Four of every five new HIV infections among 15-19 year olds in sub-Saharan Africa occur among adolescent girls.
- Late pregnancy and breastfeeding are two high-risk periods for HIV infection and early unintended pregnancy during adolescence is a risk factor for later HIV infection. Adolescent mothers and their children in sub-Saharan Africa are at greater risk of HIV infection and less likely to receive or stay on treatment.
- They are also at the epicentre of intersecting vulnerabilities, including those associated with gender inequality, poverty, violence, exclusion, poor education, and early childhood developmental delays that limit generations across a lifetime.
Understanding the unique challenges in reaching this particularly vulnerable population — as well as the urgency required to do so — is essential. The Coalition is working to facilitate this understanding by:
- Publishing a background note, outlining the current evidence on the experiences of young mothers affected by HIV and their children, the impact this has on how well they do across HIV-specific and SDG-related indicators, and solutions that may deliver improvements across several HIV and SDG targets simultaneously.
- Producing a video in which we hear directly from young, HIV affected mothers as to their experience and what they see as effective solutions.
- In partnership with the World Health Organization, hosting a learning session among scientific and programmatic experts to better understand why HIV-affected adolescent mothers and their children are being left behind and what can be done about it.
- Building awareness of the issue in the media.