How the All In Initiative Will Combat Adolescent AIDS

all_in_initiativeLast week, global leaders gathered at a U.N. meeting in Nairobi, Kenya to launch a global initiative aimed to improve treatment for youth infected with HIV/AIDS—currently the second leading cause of death among young people worldwide.

The All In Initiative is a partnership between UNAIDS and UNICEF along with the World Health Organization, the United Nations Populations Fund, and a variety of other organizations. The initiative aims to provide HIV-infected youth with more individualized medical services, engage adolescents in public awareness and treatment efforts, and spur global efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Although medical advances have been made in almost every aspect of HIV treatment, only one in four youths under the age of 15 worldwide have access to life-saving treatment, the U.N. reports. Moreover, although deaths from HIV/AIDS related causes are declining among many age groups, the U.N. reports no recent decline among 10-19 year olds.

Adolescent girls are particularly at risk for HIV infection The U.N. reports that an average of 820 girls became infected with HIV every week in South Africa in 2013, compared with only 170 boys during the same period.

According to UNAIDS, more than 2.1 million adolescents were living with HIV in 2013. UNAIDS estimates that the majority of these adolescents became infected during the prenatal stage, birth, or in the first few months of life, in a time when antiretroviral medications were not available. Many of these adolescents were never diagnosed or otherwise stopped receiving care early on.

“HIV is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa and young women are most affected,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “This is a moral injustice. I am calling on young people to lead the ‘All In’ movement, alongside the United Nations, public and private partners, and countries themselves, to end the adolescent AIDS epidemic.”

The next five years are particularly important in the fight against the AIDS epidemic. UNAIDS has recently set new “Fast Track Targets” to be achieved by 2020, including “reducing new HIV infections by at least 75 percent, reducing AIDS-related deaths by 65 percent and achieving zero discrimination.”

UNAID believes that the new Fast Track Targets, coupled with initiatives like All In, will “put the world on track towards ending adolescent AIDS by 2030” and eradicating the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat.

Katrina Beedy

Sources: UN News Center,  UNAIDS