PEPFAR and UN Women announce a partnership to strengthen the leadership and voice of young women in the global HIV response

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To mark the conclusion of the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and UN Women announced a partnership for ‘Investing in Adolescent Girls and Young Women’s Leadership and Voice in the HIV Response’. The United States government is investing over USD 670,000 for the 12-month partnership, which focuses on elevating the voices of adolescent girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa to demand non-discriminatory access to HIV services.

The partnership will provide adolescent girls and young women in 15 sub-Saharan African countries with support to strengthen their leadership and advocacy skills, in part, through mentorship and engagement with established women leaders. By amplifying the voices of a diverse set of emerging and established women leaders, the program will help to shape critical policy for improved access to HIV services for girls and women. It will also strive to create enabling environments for young women to realize their rights and access HIV information and services.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 years accounted for 25 pe rcent of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 despite representing just 10 per cent of the population. In this region, young women are twice as likely to be living with HIV than young men. The disproportionate impact of HIV on girls and women correlates with the structural barriers they often face in their daily lives, such as gender-based violence, harmful gender norms, and inequitable access to education and economic opportunities.

“The United States is proud to champion gender equity and to elevate the voices of women and girls in all their diversity,” said Dr. Angeli Achrekar, Acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. “In every country, women, girls, and the LGBTQI+ community experience specific challenges that hold them back from full and meaningful participation in society, including access to essential HIV services. We must work smarter and harder to ensure that all people, regardless of their gender identity or expression, can achieve their full potential.”

“Due to persistent unequal gender norms, adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa face an unprecedented HIV crisis,” said Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women. “We must invest in the leadership of young women and girls, including those living with and affected by HIV, and ensure an enabling environment for them to seek life-saving services. We welcome this partnership with the United States, which we strongly believe will galvanize leaders to implement long lasting policies so that women and girls can fully exercise their rights.”

The new partnership will engage young women leaders from PEPFAR’s Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) public-private partnership; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and UN Women partners. The partnership will work in 15 countries across Eastern and Southern Africa (Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) where adolescent girls and young women experience some of the highest rates of HIV risk and infection globally.