Advocates, Health Officials Discuss Programs to Fight Child Marriage, Risk for HIV Infection
June 8, 2004
Advocates and health officials on Friday at a special session of the Global Health Council's annual meeting outlined strategies for fighting child marriage, which can increase girls' risk of HIV infection, death during childbirth and other health problems, the AP/Casper Star-Tribune reports (Crary, AP/Casper Star-Tribune, 6/6). More than half of girls in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Uganda and other countries get married before age 18, and the number of child marriages will grow to 100 million over the next decade, according to the International Center for Research on Women. Child marriage doubles girls' risk of death during childbirth and increases the chances that they will experience long-term reproductive health problems, including obstetric fistula (Sheridan, VOANews, 6/5). In addition, because girls often marry older men who have had numerous sex partners, married girls are at a higher risk of HIV than sexually active, unmarried girls of the same age, according to a study of girls in Kenya and Zambia, Population Council Director of Gender, Family and Development Judith Bruce, said (AP/Casper Star-Tribune, 6/6). UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, in her speech at the special session of the conference, called for governments and organizations to highlight girls' increased risk of HIV and develop education, skill-building and literacy programs to help young girls defer marriage (UNFPA release, 6/4). Several international agencies are consulting with local civic and religious officials in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and India to come up with culturally sensitive alternatives to early marriage. In addition, UNFPA and other groups are calling for programs to assist young girls who are already married (AP/Casper Star-Tribune, 6/6).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.