South Africa: The Group in the Shadows Who Unwittingly Direct SA's HIV Epidemic


In the shadow of HIV many things are hidden. Do a quick Google search ('in the shadow of HIV') and a torrent of disease and social ills will blast across your browser. You'll find gender-based violence and stigma, sugar-daddies, obesity and hypertension, patriarchy, cancer and diabetes, denial, guilt, and the opioid crisis. Also hiding, deep in the shadows, are adolescent boys and young men.

One of the characteristic features of the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has been the extent to which women have been disproportionately affected. This is especially the case for adolescent girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 years. In South Africa, this population is at the highest risk of being newly infected and is nearly three times more likely to be living with HIV than age-matched males. What's more, pregnancy and breastfeeding place a considerable risk of HIV infection among exposed babies if women are left untreated (up to a 40% chance of transmission). It is for these reasons that adolescent girls and young women have been identified as a key population for HIV treatment and prevention strategies.

In 2015, South Africa implemented the World Health Organisation Prevention of Mother to Child...

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