South Africa: Three-Fourths of HIV-Positive Youth Are Women
July 24, 2006
For the past two years, the University of KwaZulu-Natal's AIDS program has prepared 348 South African youths to help fight HIV's spread among their peers.
The peer educators distribute condoms, as well as prevention leaflets written in English and Zulu, and they hold informational meetings about HIV in an effort to convince others to get tested and, if infected, seek treatment.
About 10 percent of South African youths have HIV, according to a 2004 report by the Reproductive Health Research Unit of the University of Witwatersrand and South Africa's largest nongovernmental youth HIV-prevention organization, LoveLife. Among those ages 15-24 who tested HIV-positive, 77 percent were female. About two-thirds of youths surveyed reported they had had sexual intercourse, among whom 52 percent reported using condoms during their last sexual experience.
"We hand out female condoms [but] nobody wants to be seen collecting them," said Mpho Bikitsha, a medical student with the peer educator program. "People associate AIDS with promiscuity."
Though the program receives about $275,000 from the university annually, it lacks the resources to expand its reach, said Ntate Chris, program chief. "We don't have the capacity to monitor and supervise the program," he said. "If we can get double the amount we get now, we can expand the program to 500 peer educators a year."
LoveLife also provides a year-long leadership training course, "groundBREAKER," for unemployed young adults ages 18-25 who then work as HIV/STD and pregnancy prevention mentors for teenagers. "Out of school, unemployed young people are extremely vulnerable to the transmission of [STDs] and HIV/AIDS, so the program provides a positive channel for young people to develop confidence, a healthy attitude, and equip them with skills to sustain themselves in a brighter future," said the group.
Inter Press Service
07.13.06; Moyiga Nduru
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.