HIV and child marriage
Adolescent girls are disproportionately affected by HIV. Some of the factors which put girls at higher risk of HIV are the same as those that put them at risk of child marriage. Find out more about these interlinked issues.
- Globally, 3 in 5 new HIV infections among 15-24 year olds are among girls and young women.
- In Eastern and Southern Africa – despite making up only 10% of the population – girls and young women aged 15-24 account for around 20% of new HIV infections.
- For every three new HIV infections among men and boys aged 15-24, there are seven among girls and women of the same age.
Linked risks for child marriage and HIV
The risk factors for both child marriage and HIV infection include poverty, low levels of education and gender inequalities which limit girls’ ability to make decisions about their own health, sexual partners and marriage.
The risk of young married girls acquiring HIV can increase because:
- They are exposed to frequent unprotected sexual activity, often because of pressure to prove their fertility.
- They have older and more sexually experienced husbands.
- They have limited power to negotiate safe sex or to access sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and HIV testing.
- They are more likely to experience intimate partner violence, which is a risk factor for HIV infection.
Prioritising adolescent girls’ rights and health
Key recommendations for action include:
- Recognise adolescent girls as a priority population and focus on them in HIV programming.
- Invest in comprehensive, girl-centred programmes which address the shared risk factors for HIV and child marriage. This includes empowering girls, increasing access to education and providing economic support.
- Ensure married girls living with HIV and their children have access to testing and treatment.
- Increase research and share learning on the links between child marriage and HIV.
- UNAIDS, 2019, Women and HIV — A spotlight on adolescent girls and young women
- LSTHM, 2018, STRIVE, Drivers of HIV webpage;
- Stöck, et.al, 2013, Is early sexual debut a risk factor for HIV infection among women in sub-Saharan Africa? A systematic review, American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 2013 Feb;69 Suppl 1:27-40. doi: 10.1111/aji.12043. Epub 2012 Nov 26.
Advancing the Evidence Base on Child Marriage and HIV
This paper and an associated expert consultation were developed to better understand the relationship between child marriage and HIV.
Child marriage and HIV
This Girls Not Brides infographic looks at the links between child marriage and HIV/AIDS.
Ending child marriage and stopping the spread of HIV: opportunities and challenges for action
This review by the African Union Commission delves into what little is known about the relationship between child marriage and HIV in the existing literature.
SASA! Activist Kit
SASA! is a community mobilisation approach developed by Raising Voices for preventing violence against women and HIV.