What is the Aidsfonds’ youth approach about?
Self-care has the power to increase people’s autonomy over their health. Having more autonomy over one’s health, is essential for adolescents and young people, who often face challenges to access health services.
With new promising developments, prevention options continue to expand. The new Dapivirine vaginal ring for HIV prevention is a highly welcomed additional method for young women to take the lead in their own health.
Aidsfonds is committed to further increase youth-led self-care prevention and treatment. We are therefore very excited to start two new ambitious projects: YouthWise and EmpoweRing: Prevention by Choice.
Two new ambitious projects
YouthWise aims to amplify the voices of adolescents and young people living with HIV in Kenya and Malawi to enable them to practice self-care and fulfil their sexual and reproductive health and rights needs, in a supportive and respectful environment.
Through the EmpoweRing project, we advocate for accelerated approval and uptake of the Dapivirine vaginal ring as an HIV prevention tool for women and girls in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
With these two new youth-led projects, we respond to the needs of adolescent girls and young women, and to adolescents and young people living with HIV. We build on new biomedical developments and opportunities that self-care can bring, and make use of our ample experience.
Aidsfonds’ youth approach
Both projects are developed within the framework of Aidsfonds’ youth approach. In our roles as involved funder, advocate and expert, we aim to further increase self-care of adolescent girls and young women, and adolescents and young people living with HIV. With youth partners in the lead and capacitated to influence policies, implement quality interventions and become sustainable, we strengthen the agency of young people to meet their own health needs, increase prevention choices for adolescent girls and young women and improve treatment outcomes and quality of life for adolescents and young people living with HIV. In our recently launched organisational strategy ‘For All that Is Love’ (2022-2025), we remain committed to working with young people.
Self-care: increased autonomy, choice and power
Self-care is a crucial step to realizing a world without AIDS by 2030 and achieving Universal Health Coverage. New commodities and solutions for self-management and self-testing, in combination with promoting and encouraging self-awareness of one’s own health, can increase access to and reach of services. Self-care has the potential to increase people’s autonomy, choice and power over their health. This is even more the case for adolescent girls and young women, and adolescents and young people living with HIV, who often face challenges to access health services due to poverty, distance, lack of privacy and out of fear of stigma.
The Dapivirine Ring
With new exciting developments, such as the Dapivirine vaginal ring, the toolbox for combination prevention continues to expand. The intravaginal silicone ring delivers an antiretroviral drug called Dapivirine, which is released slowly over the course of one month directly to vaginal tissue to help protect against HIV. The Dapivirine ring brings women in control by providing them with the first discreet, long-acting HIV prevention option. The ring can be used without a partner’s involvement with no daily action needed. It is a highly welcomed additional method for young women to take the lead in their own health, their right to protect themselves, and their right to choose.
Young people disproportionally affected in HIV response
Existing prevention methods have not done enough to stop the spread of HIV among women, who bear a disproportionate burden of the epidemic, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2019, the number of adolescent girls and young women who acquired HIV was with 280,000 nearly three times higher than the UNAIDS Fast-Track target for 2020. They comprise 10% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa but accounted for 25% of new HIV infections. Declines in AIDS-related mortality have been much more modest among adolescents (aged 10-19 years) than in other age groups. Covid-19 further poses challenges, increasing cases of gender-based violence and mental health issues, complicating treatment adherence and accessing services, and influencing stocking of ARVs.
Building on our experience
Aidsfonds has ample experience in increasing young people’s autonomy, choice and power over their health, as well as improving prevention and treatment (self-care) services.
- Aidsfonds and Soa Aids Nederland have developed the Stepped Care Model for sexual and reproductive health. This model connects young people to the off- and online services that directly meet their needs. When their needs change, the services change with them, optimizing efficiency and quality of healthcare and increasing health outcomes as a result.
- Innovative health solutions can make a great impact on reaching remote areas with HIV services. Aidsfonds partners with Healthy Entrepreneurs to bring self-care to communities in rural and remote areas. Through this program, community health workers are trained in basic health products and applications using a solar-powered tablet that has educational videos on relevant health topics in local languages.
- With the Thandizo tool, community health care workers can better support young people living with HIV to adhere to treatment. The app identifies risks for non-adherence, provides referrals, tips and advice based on individual needs. At the same time, through the app, data is gathered and provides information about the needed interventions in the areas.
- Through youth-led advocacy in Get Up Speak Out and PITCH, we have made great steps in empowering young people and supporting an enabling envireonment, through reducing age of access to services, making services more youth-friendly and changing laws and policies.
Our new projects YouthWise and EmpoweRing will build on our experience and new exciting developments. In 2022, we will expand our youth-led self-care prevention and treatment work to more countries, including Tanzania and Zambia. Stay tuned!