Wednesday, 29 June 2022
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Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Gender inequality and violence are key drivers of new HIV infections in girls

It has been 40 years since the first AIDS cases. Since then, great strides have been taken around the world to prevent and treat HIV but charity acet UK says that more needs to be done to reduce HIV infection rates.

CEO Catherine Healey explains, “There are still 4,000 people newly infected with HIV every day and, according to UNAIDS, 60% of these infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

If the UN’s target to end AIDS by 2030 is to be reached, the key drivers of the spread of HIV must be addressed. These include gender inequality, sexual gender-based violence, and lack of access to quality education.”

Catherine continues, “Girls and young women are particularly impacted by inequalities that put them at greater risk of child marriage, early and unwanted sexual activity, violence and sexual exploitation – all of which in turn puts them at greater risk of contracting HIV.

These inequalities also decrease the opportunities to access HIV treatment, which means that the development of AIDS is more likely.”

acet UK’s partners, acet Nigeria and the Shining Star Project in Zimbabwe, are supporting the most vulnerable girls in their communities to be independent, as often their futures are dictated by social and economic structures that create barriers to them reaching their potential and put them at risk of poor sexual and mental health.

21-year-old Farai* from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, entered the sex trade as she felt she had no other option to earn an income. She says, “Because I was doing sex work, I felt dirty and ashamed and felt that was where my life would end. I came to Shining Star because my friend told me it was a safe space where I could talk about my problems without being judged. As a Shining Star peer educator, I have learned the importance of HIV prevention and knowing my HIV status.

Other organisations encourage us to only be protected from HIV and other STIs, whereas this project changes our lives for the better and empowers us to exit sex work. Shining Star paid for my beauty therapy training and I’m now a hairdresser at a leading salon. I learned about business management and my goal is to start my salon next year. I’m now confident that I have a bright future.”

December 1st is World AIDS Day – acet UK is asking people not only to wear the red AIDS ribbon to show their support for Farai and the many other girls who find themselves in similar situations but also to make a donation to the work of Shining Star and acet Nigeria in The Big Give Christmas Challenge. This week, your donation will have TWICE the impact as it will be doubled by matched funding. Please give at: tinyurl.com/acetUKBigGive before midday on UK Charity Week’s Give 5 Day (Tuesday 7th December).

*Farai’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
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