HIV rates high among adolescent girls while sexual health services access low, says report

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guttmacherGlobally adolescent girls in low and middle-income countries continue to face unmet needs when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health, according to a report published by the Guttmacher Institute. Two-thirds of sexually active adolescent women worldwide do not have access to contraceptives – this unmet need contributes to higher risks of HIV, unintended pregnancies, and unsafe abortions, says the report.

With 95 percent of the 13 million births globally among young women aged 15-19 occurring in developing countries each year, protecting adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health is critical to achieving development goals, including reducing poverty, the report says. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls globally, and babies born to adolescents face significantly higher risks of preterm birth, low birth weight, malformations and other complications, the report notes.

AIDS-related deaths among young women aged 15-19 are increasing, with women in this age group in sub-Saharan Africa facing an HIV prevalence twice that of young men in the same age group. “This increase likely reflects a lack of commitment to providing testing and treatment services specifically for young people,” the report says.

In a third of all African countries and in half of countries in West Africa, fewer than 50% of adolescent women know of a place to get a test, the report says. Fewer than 50 percent of adolescents know where to obtain a condom in one-third of African countries.

“More adolescent women, particularly those at high risk for HIV, need access to HIV testing outside the context of pregnancy-related care,” the report says. “Testing offers an opportunity for health providers to link young people living with HIV to appropriate care and treatment, including services to prevent mother-to-child transmission.”

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