HIV and the Church

Posted by Ashley Eure

Despite widespread gains in the global fight against HIV, progress has not been as dramatic for adolescent girls, a group that now bears a disproportionate burden of HIV globally, according the  Progress for Children report recently released by UNICEF.


Of the 1.9 million adults aged 15 and older newly infected with HIV in 2013, 35% were young people (age 15-24). The data shows that once children reach adolescence, a marked difference emerges in the between boys and girls, with girls disproportionately affected by the disease. 1


In 2013, girls accounted for two-thirds of all adolescents age 15-19 newly infected with HIV .2 In some countries, adolescent girls are up to three times more likely than boys of their same age to be newly infected. 1


Similarly, while AIDS-related deaths have decreased dramatically across every other age group between 2001 and 2013, there was no decrease in the death rate among adolescent girls and boys age 10-19 (see the graph below). 1 HIV remains the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age (age 15-49) globally.


What can be done? One area in need of improvement is knowledge and prevention. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region hardest hit by the disease, surveys show that less than 40% of young men and women age 15-24 have correct and comprehensive knowledge of HIV. 1 That number is only about ten percentage points higher than surveys conducted 15 years ago in 2000, highlighting that there is much work still to be done in the area of prevention for adolescents. 1 In every income and geographic bracket, the comprehensive knowledge of HIV among young women lags behind that of their male peers (see graph below). 3

Additionally, of the 1.5 million girls and women 15 years old and older pregnant and living with HIV, 90% live in sub-Saharan Africa. The data suggests that half of these girls will pass the virus to their children during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding if not reached with intervention. 1


HIV&AIDS Initiative PEACE trips to Rwanda raise up the local church to be a source of HIV prevention training and an important linkage to care. If you are interested in learning more, email



1.     UNICEF, Progress for Children Report 2015 , page 38.

2.     UNICEF, Progress for Children Report 2015 , page 2.

3.     UNICEF, Progress for Children Report 2015 , page 40.

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