June 10, 2014

Scaling up evidence-informed HIV prevention for adolescent girls and young women

Adolescents are a critical priority in HIV prevention programming. Today’s adolescents have never known a world without AIDS. People born with HIV and those becoming sexually active in an era of HIV and AIDS face complicated risks and challenges that were unknown to previous generations.

Today, 1.8 billion young people ages 10–24 comprise 44 percent of the world’s population. Many of the countries with the highest HIV prevalence are experiencing a massive “youth bulge” in population, so even with decreasing HIV prevalence, the absolute number of young people living with HIV or at risk of acquiring HIV will grow in the next five years. There is also growing evidence that many high-risk behaviors among key populations begin during adolescence.

Young women are especially vulnerable, with HIV infection rates nearly twice as high as those for young men. At the end of 2012, approximately two-thirds of new HIV infections in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years were among girls. An AIDS-free generation is not possible without addressing the specific needs of adolescents—especially girls—that put them at risk for HIV acquisition.

Scaling up evidence-informed interventions for adolescents is essential. This brief offers priority interventions for programmers based on evidence from successful programming for women and girls; though a number of the interventions listed also benefit men and boys. The brief is divided into three parts: evidence-informed priority areas for programming; implementation and research gaps that must be addressed; and considerations for scaling up successful programming for girls and young women.

What Works for Women & Girls is supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Open Society Foundations and is being carried out under the auspices of the USAID-supported Health Policy Project, the Public Health Institute, and What Works Association, Inc.