We are failing in our global ambitions to tackle HIV and AIDS and their impacts on children and adolescents. Adolescent mothers affected by HIV and their children, in particular, are a vast and growing population being left behind. They are more vulnerable to poor outcomes across HIV targets and the SDGs. Yet they are underserved; with many too far away, too poor, too stigmatised and discriminated against, or too mentally or emotionally distressed to be able to access support.
Adolescent mothers affected by HIV and their children need holistic support, addressing their biomedical, social and economic needs together, and delivered in and by communities, families and adolescents themselves.
- 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:
- Co-hosting, with the World Health Organization, a Learning Session to develop an evidence-informed advocacy agenda. This is not just an advocacy agenda for the Coalition, but rather for anyone committed to adolescent mothers affected by HIV and their children. 43 global thought leaders took part in designing the agenda – from the HIV, sexual and reproductive health, early childhood development, poverty reduction, rights, gender, exclusion and mental health sectors. We are now supporting adolescent mothers and other key stakeholders working with and for them to shape this agenda further.
- Commissioning the University of Stellenbosch, University of Cape Town and University College London to jointly conduct a global evidence review.
- Producing a video in which we hear directly from young mothers affected by HIV as to their experience and what they see as effective solutions.
- Co-hosting a webinar in partnership with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the World Health Organization. A recording of the webinar is available here. The slides are available here.
- Supporting our young mother Ambassador, Miriam, to advocate with her peers.
- Building awareness of the issue in the media.
- Launching the #TeenMomsAndHIV campaign to unite a common movement behind this critical population.