Business & Finance

First Lady of Botswana champions revitalization of HIV prevention among adolescent girls and young women

While Botswana has made excellent progress in achieving the UNAIDS 90�90�90 treatment targets, evidence shows it has experienced a 4% increase in new HIV infections from 2010 to 2017, from 13 000 to 14 000. This is against the backdrop of a massive 30% decrease in new HIV infections across the eastern and southern African region.

Adolescent girls and young women are particularly at risk of HIV infection, as well as unintended pregnancy and sexual and gender-based violence. In 2017 there were 1 500 new HIV infections among adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 19 years, compared to fewer than 500 new infections among adolescent boys the same age.

As a result, Neo Masisi, the First Lady of Botswana, uses her voice to advocate for better health outcomes for adolescent girls and young women. In an effort to drive high-impact, age-appropriate and gender-sensitive interventions, she holds dialogues with adolescent girls and young women about their experiences.

On 9 December 2018, she hosted a post-World AIDS Day event attended by 100 adolescent girls and young women, to bring to light to issues they face on a daily basis�unintended pregnancy, gender-based violence, access to sexual and reproductive health rights and how these intersect with HIV. I am concerned about how young people have not known a life without HIV and hence they are more vulnerable to social ills, said Mrs Masisi.

During the dialogue, Richard Matlhare, a representative from the National AIDS Coordinating Agency, emphasised that the five-year Botswana National Strategic Framework on HIV/AIDS provides a paradigm shift, which is a sector-specific strategy explicitly focusing on adolescent girls and young women and their male partners.

Participants at the dialogue also previewed the Pan-African movie Faces, directed by Joseph Adesunloye and starring South African actress, Terry Pheto, who plays the character of Aisha, a woman who has to deal with HIV infection and gender-based violence.

Ms Pheto, who attended the dialogue, spoke about her role as an actress and influencer and how she aims not simply to entertain, but also educate, adolescent girls and young women and men on HIV and gender-based violence. She added that projects such as these are very close to my home and heart.

Source: UNAIDS