Youth Advocates for Microbicides: Changing the Future of HIV Prevention
Youth and HIV
This disproportionate impact of HIV and STIs on young women is due both to biological and socio-economic factors. An adolescent's cervix is physiologically less mature than an adult's and, therefore, more vulnerable to infection.
In many societies, girls are discouraged from learning about their bodies. They don't have adequate or accurate reproductive health information, nor do they have the negotiating skills or power to protect themselves from HIV.
Because of cultural and economic factors, young women are often involved in cross-generational relationships that can increase their risk for HIV infection. Some women are married at an early age, usually to older men. Older and more sexually experienced men also seek out young girls for sex. Some girls engage in sexual relations with older men in exchange for school fees, gifts, or money. Cultural norms in many settings give women little, if any, power to determine the circumstances in which sex occurs, including whether or not condoms are used.
What Are Microbicides?
Microbicides (mi-KRO'-bi-sidz) would provide young women with a method of protecting themselves from STI and HIV infection that is under their direct control. As gels, creams, suppositories, films or lubricants applied topically to the vagina, microbicides are designed to kill or disable HIV and some other STI pathogens on contact. Because they are applied before sex and do not require partner cooperation, microbicides would offer a whole new prevention option to women unable or unwilling to insist on condom use.
Microbicides DO NOT YET exist. Scientists are currently testing over 50 possible products, but no safe and effective microbicide is yet on the market. Lack of resources and the political will to adequately fund microbicide research have been slowing their development. Despite these barriers, three candidate microbicides are now entering the final stages of clinical testing. If one of these leads proves to be effective, a microbicide could be ready for distribution in a handful of countries within 2 to 3 years. If the current set of products does not prove effective, the time horizon will be longer (although there are several second-generation leads already in human testing). It is now more critical than ever that the voices of youth are
The Need for Youth Involvement in Microbicide Advocacy
Young advocates all over the world are raising their voices in the growing public demand for microbicides. Youth involvement is important in shaping microbicide research and ensuring access to safe and effective microbicides as soon as possible. In particular, youth can get involved in advocacy around the following critical issues:
This article was provided by Global Campaign for Microbicides. Visit the Global Campaign for Microbicides' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.