The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday launched a social media campaign to raise awareness about HIV and AIDs among African youth amid their vulnerability to the disease.
WHO launched the campaign as Dec. 31, the 31st World AIDS Day approaches.
Matshidiso Moeti, the organisation’s Regional Director for Africa, said.
Senior officials said the campaign dubbed #TheTeaOnHIV aims to reach out to one million adolescents and youth in Africa with information on how they can prevent themselves from contracting HIV.
And also on how to live positively with HIV/AIDs.
“This social media campaign aims to equip young Africans with the right information to start breaking the barriers that prevent them from getting support,” Moeti said.
Nearly 1.5 million out of the 1.6 million adolescents living with HIV globally by 2018 are in the Sub-Saharan African region, according to the data from WHO.
Moeti said that investment in youth-friendly reproductive health services was key to revitalising the war against HIV and Aids in Africa – a disease that accounts for more than 70 per cent of 30 million people living with it globally.
According to the 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.
Frank Lule, Medical Officer HIV/Aids Treatment at WHO Regional Office for Africa, said that 4 out of 10 new HIV infections are concentrated in the 15 to 24 years age bracket in the continent thanks to vulnerabilities linked to poverty and limited information about the disease.
“There has been inadequate awareness about HIV and Aids among adolescents and youth in this region and the new campaign will ensure they have access to knowledge on prevention and management of the disease,” Lule said.
He added that the social media-fueled HIV and Aids awareness campaign would provide a platform for African youth to share knowledge, experiences, and best practice geared toward the elimination of the disease by 2030.
Catherine Ngugi, Head of Programmes at Kenya’s National Aids and STIs Control Programme (NASCOP), said that robust interventions that included awareness campaigns and economic empowerment were key to reducing HIV infections among the youth.
“We need to look at the other drivers of higher infections among the youth that include lack of access to education, quality health care and jobs,” Ngugi said.
She said that Kenya had developed youth-friendly HIV and Aids interventions as government data indicated that the demography accounted for more than 51 per cent of new infections in the recent past.
Doreen Moraa, a 27-year-old Kenyan campaigner living with HIV, said that leveraging on social media platforms was key to influencing behaviour change among youth at risk of contracting the Aids virus.
“On my Facebook page, I have declared: I am HIV-positive. I am not sick. I am not sad. I am not dying. I am just a fabulous host to a tiny virus,” Moraa said in Nairobi.