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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs