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HIV Rises Among Women in Africa

A health worker gives an AIDS awareness class to youths within a Nairobi slum where the HIV positive rate is estimated to be over 20%.

At least 4,000 and 200,000 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are infected every week with HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima has implored African countries to fund local programs that will reduce new HIV infections among girls and women.

Adolescent girls and young women aged 14–25 years in Sub-Saharan Africa represent only 10% of the population but accounted for 25% of new HIV infections in 2017.

Byanyima says the international community is ready to support government to ensure the HIV/AIDS prevalence among girls and young women is reduced.

Byanyima adds that “the best way to reduce new HIV/AIDS infections among girls is to keep them in schools.”

According to a study conducted by the University of Washington and published in journal AIDS. One of the highly prevalent biological factors that increase their susceptibility to HIV may be HPV, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which causes cervical cancer. In Africa specifically, 36% of adolescent girls and young women have HPV.

The study says that HIV transmission during sex occurs primarily across mucosal linings in the vagina (or anus). Normally, the cells in mucosal linings are tightly interlocked, forming a protective barrier.

HIV can cross this barrier, even under normal conditions, but it is possible that proteins released during the body's immune response to HPV may disrupt or loosen the tight connections between cells and weakenthe barrier's integrity making it easier for HIV to sneak across.

HPV vaccination programmes are being scaled up in sub-Saharan Africa in order to eliminate cervical cancer and promote well-being among women and girls.

However, misconceptions about HPV vaccines continue to contribute to sub-optimal demand despite their excellent safety profile.

A study in Cameroon and Uganda found that fear of infertility was the major reason for hesitancy, while in Kenya 25% of parents reject the vaccination because of perceived promiscuous behaviours in their daughters after vaccination.

Religious leaders also contribute to community attitudes. Up to 29% of parents in Kenya say that they would not vaccinate their daughters because their religion prohibits them.

The Kenya Catholic Doctors Association (KCDA) has publicly argued that the vaccine “has adverse effects” and that “children who are chaste need not worry about contracting HPV”.

Researchers at Aids Map, a charity based in the United Kingdom conducts study on HIV and AIDS, concludes that “concurrent infection with multiple HPV types significantly increased HIV risk. Specifically, the risk of HIV acquisition increased by 20% with each additional HPV type detected”.