News / Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa Girls Face High HIV/AIDS Risk

Teen girls three-to-five times more likely to be infected than boys

Go Girls! worked with local communities to protect and  empower girls, like this one in Mozambique.
Go Girls! worked with local communities to protect and empower girls, like this one in Mozambique.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

Teenage girls in sub-Saharan Africa are three-to-five times more likely to be infected with the virus that causes AIDS than boys their age. A new study in Malawi, Mozambique and Botswana explores why that is.

Carol Underwood, senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, directed the initiative called Go Girls!

She says community meetings helped define the problem. “We found that girls who were orphans, who were not in school or never attended school, who live in impoverished conditions or are socially isolated are more likely to be HIV-positive.”  

According to Underwood, girls who don’t have supportive relationships with adults are also more likely to be HIV-positive.

A 14-year-old girl from Malawi named Mary fits that profile. Orphaned after her parents died, Mary tried supporting herself by home-brewing beer on the street. Willard Mwambo, who put “Go Girls!” in place in Malawi, shared Mary’s story at a briefing in Washington.  

In a country where 15 percent of the population has the virus that causes AIDS, Mwambo says Mary was at great risk. She couldn't support herself and made bad decisions.

“Her solution was the wrong one," he says. Mary sold sex for money, got pregnant and dropped out of school. “And again the situation was so tough because she was failing to divide time, time to process beer and time again to take care of the baby."

Things began to change after Mary attended a Go Girls! community meeting. Mwambo says such meetings - at the heart of the program - empower locals to solve problems. “And that’s when she heard about the importance of going to school. She learned that it is possible that even if someone has a baby, she can go back to school.”

Mary’s aunt was also at the meeting, where she was encouraged to help Mary, who has since stopped selling beer, quit prostitution and returned to school, with hopes of becoming a nurse.

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health - with support from the U.S. government - used that research to set up a community program with one mission: to keep girls out of harm’s way.  

Underwood says the findings led to actions to protect girls.  “We developed structural interventions to make schools safer. And we also worked on what we call legal literacy, getting communities to become aware of laws that are on the books to protect girls and also empowering them to take action to make sure that those laws are in force.”

Underwood adds that Go Girls! also helped foster better parent-adult-child-communication and among girls themselves to increase their knowledge about HIV. She says country reports document changes in how girls are cared for at school and at home.  

“And in those schools where we worked we found that girls felt safer than in the schools where we didn’t work. We also found that girls said teachers’ demands for sex in exchange for good grades or favors had decreased in the schools where we worked. We found that there was an increase in legal literacy among adults and girls over time.”

Malawi youth organizer Willard Mwambo says Go Girls! works because it empowers community residents to take charge.  “You can say it’s everybody’s responsibility in the community to at least protect the girl child.”

Funding for Go Girls! expires this month. Organizers are hoping United Nations agencies, the U.S. Peace Corps and other groups will not only continue the efforts, but expand their reach to other countries where adolescent girls are at high risk from HIV/AIDS.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid