Dear youth learn to negotiate for safe sex .
By 2030 there will be an increase of 183,000 annual new HIV infections among adolescents if the current trends continue. In 2019, 460,000 (260,000-680,000) young people between the ages of 10 to 24 were newly infected with HIV, of whom 170,000 (53,000-340,000) were adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19.
Doesn’t this scare you? Well, that is according to a 2020 report by UNICEF titled, Turning the Tide against AIDS will require a more concentrated focus on adolescents and young people in Uganda?
According to the report, in 2019, about 1.7 million (1.1 million-2.4 million) adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 were living with HIV worldwide. Adolescents account for about 5 per cent of all people living with HIV and about 10 per cent of new adult HIV infections.
Globally, in 2019, adolescent girls accounted for three-quarters of all new HIV infections among adolescents. In sub-Saharan Africa that year, four times as many adolescent girls were newly infected with HIV than adolescent boys.
Despite the very many efforts put in place by the government and the Non-Government Organisations, the number of HIV new infections among the youth is on the increase. Condoms are given to young people as well as placed dispensers all over convenient. Where is the problem? Are the young people empowered enough to negotiate for safe sex besides having the condom?
Every young person says they love their life and would not engage in any sexual-activity before having an HIV test. Why then are we having increased new HIV infections among young people? That has always trickled my mind. This morning I decided to engage my fellow youth at work in a conversation.
Journey with me as I recount a story of one of the young people who volunteered to share his story. He said one fateful night a girl he had been texting flirty messages agreed to visit him and that night they ended up having unprotected sex despite not testing and not knowing each other’s HIV status. He narrated that it was one of those
beautiful nights he has ever had.
Unfortunately, this was short-lived because he started having wild thoughts, “If this girl is HIV positive what will I do? he said. He would not sleep that night because of the scary thoughts.
Surprisingly in the morning, instead of having an HIV test, he bought an emergency pill for the girlfriend, the fear of becoming a father at a young age over weighed the fear of contracting AIDS. That indicates that young people are so afraid of getting pregnant than HIV.
He said he took the girl’s word for it when she said she is HIV negative. At that point, an HIV test was an option and not a priority. Shockingly, young people remember to have HIV tests after having sex.
Can words be used as a testing measure for HIV? No, my heart bleeds for our young generation. These occurrences account for the increased number of new HIV infections among young people.
I call upon the government, Non-Government Organisations and the different stakeholders to join efforts to continue empowering young people to negotiate for safer sex. Gazette more private clinics to conduct HIV testing at a free or subsidised price so as not to scare away young people from testing. Together we can change the trend of
increased HIV new infections among young people.
By Namono Suzan a member of Straight Talk Uganda.