Growing Impact of HIV/AIDS on Teenage Girls

Teenage is a developmental episode marked by discovery and experimentation that comes with a myriad of physical and emotional changes. Sexual behavior and/or drug use are often a part of this exploration. During this time of growth and change, Teenagers get mixed messages. Teens are urged to remain abstinent while surrounded by images on television, movies and magazines of glamorous people having sex, smoking, and drug use or drinking. Double standards exist for girls who are expected to remain virgins and boys who are pressured to demonstrate their manhood through sexual activity and aggressiveness. And in the name of culture, religion or morality, Teenagers are often denied access to information about their bodies and health risks that can help keep them safe.

As mention by Mr. Sheika Masudur Rahman of the UNICEF in Bangladesh, “Inequalities of age interact with the inequalities of socio-economic background, gender and sexuality to determine young people's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. Although age and generation just as strongly influence the vulnerability of young men, not only those who sell or trade sex, but also those who engage in sexual activity as a means of gaining adult status and the privileges it offers.”

Teenage Girls are at particular risk. In some of the worst-affected countries of southern Africa, adolescent girls, aged 15 to 19, are infected at rates as much as seven times higher than boys; in parts of the Caribbean, girls are infected at twice the rate. The disproportionate impact is related to widespread sexual violence, coercion, and discrimination against girls, making it extremely difficult for them to protect themselves or to negotiate safer sex. Adolescent girls are also biologically more vulnerable to HIV transmission because of the immaturity of their reproductive tracts and the much higher rates of HIV/AIDS transmission from males to females. Further, their risk of HIV infection greatly increases when other STIs are present.

Girls who are orphaned or from AIDS-affected families are also more susceptible to be lured into commercial sex work; in some regions, including Southeast Asia, girls are also trafficked for the sex trade. In many AIDS-affected countries, including Thailand, men are seeking younger and younger sex workers in the hope that they will be HIV-negative. Sex workers around the world have dramatically higher HIV prevalence than the rest of the population. UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, has estimated that as many as 50 percent of sex workers in Kenya were HIV-positive; 45 percent in Guyana; and 50 percent in Myanmar (Burma). The stigma and illegality associated with sex work make it difficult for these young women to seek treatment, to report abuses, or to negotiate condom use. As the epidemic penetrates Russia and China, new prevention strategies are essential to target the high-risk groups of female sex workers and intravenous drug users (IDUs).

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV are most common among young people aged 15-24 and it has been estimated that half of all HIV infections worldwide have occurred among people aged under 25 years. In some developing countries, up to 60% of all new HIV infections occur among 15-24 year-olds. (WHO)

Gender discrimination, poor statues of women, sexuality and age are important factors structuring such vulnerability. Unequal power relations between women and men, for example, may render young women especially vulnerable to coerced or unwanted sex, and can also influence the capacity of young women to influence when, where and how sexual relations occur. Recent research in North region’s three districts in Bangladesh by Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation has shown that while provide HIV information with discussions of safe-sex and gender issue may be discouraged for young girls and women because of the ordinary belief that to inform them about sexuality and safe-sex is to encourage sexual activity. Even though that for fear of encouraging sexual activity, mothers deny imperative information about sexual-live, safe sex, reproductive health information from their daughters.

AIDS Researcher Mr. Anirudha Alam said, “There are some forms of risky behavior that directly makes women vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in the developing countries like Bangladesh. It should be cornerstone of life to get rid of risky behavior through improving living standard any how. For the greater involvement of vulnerable women in every aspect of curbing epidemic, they have to be able to respond to the epidemic in a meaningful manner.”


More by :  Mohammad Khairul Alam

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