Focus More On Adolescents In HIV Advocacy - Medical Officer

HIV is considered as one of the most destructive pandemics that the world has ever seen, having killed an estimated 25 million people globally between 1981 and 2007, with some 34 million people currently living with it. Very remarkable advances have been made in HIV treatment and there is also now a better understanding of the condition. However, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. In light of this, the World Health Organization believes the focus of this year’s World AIDS Day observance should be on adolescents who seem to have being neglected in all the education and advocacy that has gone on. And according to Dr Michael Cudjoe, a medical officer with the New Crystal Health Services, adolescents are the most vulnerable age group and therefore the awareness for voluntary counseling and testing which is currently underutilized should be looked at again. It is believed that more than 2 million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years are living with HIV and millions more are at risk of infection. The WHO states this has resulted in a 50% increase in reported AIDS-related deaths in this group compared with the 30% decline seen in the general population from 2005 to 2012. Dr Cudjoe believes the prevailing situation could be attributed to the failure to support effective and acceptable HIV services for adolescents. He stresses that it is important that those already living with it receive the needed care and support so they stay in good health and prevent transmission, He adds that it is important to constantly remind the public and Government that HIV has not gone away by rolling out more advocacy programs on awareness and prevention. He says it is still vital to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve on education that is tailored to the needs of adolescents. Commenting on the theme for this year’s world AIDS day which is, “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results For An Aids-Free Generation," Dr Cudjoe says he is in total agreement. He explains, “It is important that we get involved in the fight against aids. It is indeed our responsibility to help break the chain of this menace. In order to strengthen results for AIDS free generation, we should be each other’s keeper, comply with the ABC approach, aim for zero tolerance to stigmatization and aids related complications.” He adds that stigmatization is still very rife despite the education that has and is still going on. He says if this is not addressed properly, it could derail all the progress that has being made as stigmatization prevents people from seeking proper care and treatment thus failing to properly manage the disease. He said going forward; he would strongly recommend that more advocacy should be done as he is convinced it is the surest way to make strides in the fight against the disease. The WHO is also recommending that governments review their laws to make it easier for adolescents to obtain HIV testing without needing consent from their parents. Guidelines contained in new HIV recommendation it launched ahead of the day also suggest ways that health services can improve the quality of care and social support for adolescents. And they highlight the value of involving this age group to create an adolescent-centered approach to the services that work for people of their age.