Panafrican News Agency

WHO launches social media campaign on HIV infection

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office in Africa on Friday launched a social media campaign, #TheTeaOnHIV, that aims to better inform at least one million adolescents and young people about preventing HIV infection as well as living positively with the virus.

The campaign, as the 31st World AIDS Day approaches on 1 December, also intends to expand the cadre of HIV champions helping spread simple yet vital information on HIV and advocate quality adolescent- and youth-friendly health services, according to an official statement.

WHO Africa Region Office noted that nearly 1.5 million of the 1.6 million adolescents living with HIV globally in 2018 were in sub-Saharan Africa. Around two-thirds of HIV-positive adolescents in Africa who know their status acquired it through mother-to-child transmission.

According to UNAIDS data, only one in three young people globally has comprehensive knowledge about HIV and seven out of 10 young women (aged 15–24 years) in sub-Saharan Africa do not have comprehensive knowledge about HIV.

This places them at higher risk of contracting the virus and, at the same time, perpetuates stigma and alienation. Sexual health education and understanding about consent to sexual activity are crucial for young people to protect themselves.

The statement said lack of proper information is harming adolescents and young people. While adults in Africa are increasingly dying of other causes, AIDS remains a leading cause of death among adolescents in high-burden countries.

In 2018, around 157,000 adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa were newly infected – 82% were girls and young women.

“We must stop leaving adolescents and young people behind. We need to do more to deliver stronger prevention strategies and adolescent- and youth-friendly health services – when and where they need them and in ways that they accept,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

“This social media campaign aims to equip young Africans with the right information to start breaking the barriers that prevent them from getting support,” she added.

“Spilling the tea” is a common term on social media and means to talk factually and honestly about something.

The statement said WHO recognises that efforts to educate adolescents and young people about unhealthy behaviours as well as HIV have stagnated. There is need to renew open and frank discussions with this age group on the platforms that reach them, such as social media.

It said the campaign also advocates health services which respond to the unique needs of adolescents. WHO has developed eight global standards for the delivery of quality adolescent-friendly health services. 

All the standards must be met if governments are to appropriately respond to the needs of adolescents including: health services must be nondiscriminatory and protect adolescents’ right to privacy; they must engage adolescents and youth in their own care and at convenient times (available beyond school hours) and work with peers in service delivery.  

-0- PANA MA 29Nov2019