Together we can make child marriage & HIV history

Over the last few months at Girls Not Brides, we’ve been looking closely at the links between child marriage and HIV. What we found showed us it’s more important than ever that we work collaboratively within the HIV sector to ensure that adolescent girls’ needs are prioritised.

Around the world, girls and young women are disproportionately affected by HIV. Every week, around 7,700 girls and young women aged 15-24 acquire HIV. Close to 80% of these new infections happen in sub-Saharan Africa. We have limited evidence about the direct relationship between child marriage and HIV, but many of the factors which put girls and young women at greater risk of HIV infection also put girls at increased risk of child marriage. Once married, child brides face huge health risks as a result of their early marriage, and in some contexts, much higher risk of HIV infection.

To learn more about the links between HIV and child marriage, check out our brief.

At the end of July, we took our findings along to the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam to make sure that adolescent girls weren’t being left behind.

We outlined four key asks for the HIV sector, including:

  1. Recognise adolescent girls as a priority population and focus on them in HIV programming.
  2. Invest in integrated, multi-sectoral programmes to tackle the shared structural risk factors for HIV infection and child marriage and ensure a holistic response to address girls’ needs.
  3. Invest in programmes which support married and unmarried girls living with HIV.
  4. Increase research and share learning about child marriage and HIV for more effective responses at scale.

We were supported in our call to action by a number of leading HIV organisations who are also working with adolescent girls and young women living with, or at risk of HIV.

These organisations, including the Global Fund, PEPFAR and UNAIDS run programmes and carry out advocacy in countries where there is a high prevalence of HIV for girls and young women. To help make it clear what these organisations do and how you could work alongside them in your work to end child marriage, we’ve put together a brief summary of each:

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

The Global Fund is a global partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It raises and invests nearly US$4 billion a year to support programmes run by local experts in countries and communities most in need.

The Global Fund has set a target to reduce the number of new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women by 58 percent in 13 African countries over the next five years: Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Global Fund has already made available an additional US$55 million in funding to catalyze the right investments for adolescent girls and young women in high HIV burden countries. It aims to raise additional resources over the next five years to expand HIV prevention programmes for adolescent girls and young women. Find out more.

PEPFAR’s DREAMS Partnership to Reduce HIV/AIDS in Adolescent Girls and Young Women

DREAMS is a $385 million partnership ran by PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries: Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

DREAMS delivers a core package of interventions that combines evidence-based approaches that go beyond the health sector, addressing the structural drivers that directly and indirectly increase girls’ HIV risk, including poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence, and a lack of education. Find out more.

UNAIDS

UNAIDS is a UN body leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. It provides strategic direction, advocacy, stakeholder coordination and technical support to governments, the private sector and communities to deliver life-saving HIV services. It has country offices in 70 countries and provides comprehensive data on HIV across the world.

Find out more about UNAIDS and see which countries it works in.

What can you do?

If you are interested in engaging with the HIV sector in your country, we suggest you contact one of these agencies’ country offices in the area where you work. You should be able to find relevant contact details online.

If you are are already working with the HIV sector or interested in doing so, email zoe.birchall@girlsnotbrides.org. This way we will know to share relevant opportunities and new research with you.