HIV/AIDS vulnerabilities, discrimination, and service accessibility among Africa’s youth: insights from a multi-country study

HIV/AIDS vulnerabilities, discrimination, and service accessibility among Africa’s youth: insights from a multi-country study

At the individual level, youth lack access to appropriate SRH [sexual and reproductive health] information and confidential, low-cost, and stigma-free SRH services. Institutional responses are hampered by sociocultural sensitivities to youth premarital sexual activity, inadequate provision of sexuality education, and limited geographic and target population reach of current youth-focused programming. There continue to be few youth-specific policy provisions, which are hindered by weak political commitments and inadequate resourcing for implementation.

These are some of the key insights outlined in this report discussing the findings of a study conducted in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda regarding HIV risk-taking and health-seeking behaviours among young people. By providing an examination of the HIV prevention and impact mitigation issues facing young people in these countries, the report seeks to uncover gaps in ongoing HIV prevention programmes for young people on the continent.

Based on these findings, it recommends a number of key strategic actions for making the HIV response more relevant and effective for young people, including the types of communication, advocacy, and economic empowerment interventions and operations research that are needed. The study is intended to inform the Population Council's development of more effective policies for reaching youth and meeting their needs, including insights and evidence for better planning, designing, allocating resources to, and evaluating policies and programmes that address the HIV vulnerabilities of youth across Africa.

Recommendations:

  • improving sexual-health-seeking behaviours, especially uptake of HCT [HIV Counseling and Testing] by male youth and condom use by female youth, through a combination of youth-empowering communication and poverty-reduction interventions is imperative
  • evidence-based advocacy needs to be targeted at policymakers and donors to drive greater attention to the youth dimensions of the HIV epidemic, especially in relation to neglected vulnerable youth
  • innovative operations research is called for to better understand how to increase the meaningful involvement of young people in the conception, planning, and implementation of SRH and HIV/AIDS policies and programs
  • efforts to promote the mainstreaming of youth-friendly SRH and HIV services are required given the challenges of scaling up and sustaining the few model standalone services provided largely by NGOs
  • systematic domestication of key international regional protocols to align to individual country contexts needs to be advocated for aggressively
  • alignment of civil, religious, and customary laws to ensure laws and policies are not contradictory needs to be fully explored. The effective implementation of youth-specific laws and policies remains a challenge requiring multisectoral and multilevel actions, including increased funding
  • national AIDS coordinating agencies must live up to their oversight function in ensuring that young people are not neglected in national HIV policies and programs
  • governments need to increase funding and demonstrate ownership and sustainability of youth-based HIV programs

 

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