The new UNAIDs Executive Director of, Winnie Byanyima has asked nations around the world to remove stringent laws that require adolescents to seek parents’ consent before accessing reproductive health.
“We must remove parental consent laws that block independent access for adolescents to access reproductive health services, including contraception, STI treatment, and HIV testing, prevention and treatment. We must keep all young people in school and ensure quality comprehensive sexuality education,” Byanyima said.
She made the remarks today while speaking at the thematic segment of UNAIDs Board meeting geared towards finding solutions towards reducing the impact of HIV in children and young people.
She also argued that there is need for governments to secure the funding, ensure policy shifts and be ambitious so that all children exposed to HIV secure rapid diagnosis, and all children living with HIV have a normal healthy lifespan.
“In doing this let’s not forget that we must involve children, adolescents and young people in everything we do. Let’s empower them to be the change makers and they will change the world. Reducing new HIV infections among children has been one of the major successes in the AIDS response,” She said.
Byanyima also revealed that there was 160,000 new infections in children in 2018, with 300 hundred children living with HIV dying, a trend she attributed to government systems failing to reach HIV-positive pregnant woman with Mother To Child Transmission services.
“This is often not just an issue of physical access to services but because of social, economic and structural barriers that they face: stigma and discrimination, gender-based violence, lack of food and money,” she said, adding: “Access to HIV treatment is a critical step to keeping children living with HIV healthy. We must ensure good nutrition, access to education, and support to their care-givers. It is about protecting their rights….Adolescent girls and young women are more vulnerable to HIV because of gender inequality. Young people account for a large share of new infections among key populations. We all know why. It is because of lack of access to discrimination-free services, it is because of stigma and marginalization, and often it is because of criminalization.”