40 years on: Gender inequality - a driver of HIV

(This story is also featured in Charity Today.)

It has been 40 years since the first AIDS cases were reported.

Since then, great strides have been taken around the world to prevent and treat HIV, yet more needs to be done to reduce HIV infection rates.

There are still 4,000 people newly infected with HIV every day. And 60% of these infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS, 2020). 

The United Nations has set a target through the Sustainable Development Goals to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, but is the world on track to get there?

In order for this target to be reached, the key drivers of the spread of HIV must be addressed. These include gender inequality, sexual gender-based violence and lack of access to quality education.

Our partners, ACET Nigeria and the Nehemiah Project in Zimbabwe, are addressing these issues through their life-transforming programmes that reach some of the most vulnerable people in their communities.

Girls and young women are particularly impacted by inequalities that put them at greater risk of child marriage, early and unwanted sexual activity, and sexual exploitation – all of which in turn puts them at greater risk of contracting HIV.

These inequalities also decrease the opportunity to access treatment, which means that the development of AIDS is more likely.

On 1st December - World AIDS Day - we are asking you to take a moment to think about these precious girls and young women who want to have their future in their own hands.

ACET Nigeria and the Nehemiah Project (through their Shining Star Project) are supporting girls to be independent, rather than having their futures dictated by harmful social and economic structures that create barriers to them reaching their potential and put them at risk of terrible sexual and mental health outcomes.

Meet Farai, 21, from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, who felt helpless after thinking she had no option to earn an income except to enter the sex trade.

“Before I became a Shining Star peer educator, my life had no direction. Because I was doing sex work, I felt dirty and ashamed and felt that was where my life would end. I came to Shining Star because my friend told me it was a safe space where I could talk about my problems without being judged.

As a peer educator, I have learnt the importance of HIV prevention and knowing my HIV status. I’m now an effective peer educator and, through experienced gained from the project, I will be a peer educator for life.

Other organisations encourage us to do sex work and only be protected from HIV and other STIs, whereas this project changes our lives for the better and empowers us to exit sex work.

I’ve trained in beauty therapy, flower arranging and baking. Shining Star paid for my training and I’m now a hairdresser at a leading salon. I learnt about business management and my goal is to start my salon next year.

I’m now confident that I have a bright future and I can achieve all my goals.”

On World AIDS Day, we would be grateful if you would wear the red AIDS ribbon to show your support for Farai and the many other girls and young women who find themselves in similar situations.

You can also show support by making a donation to the work of Shining Star and ACET Nigeria in The Big Give Christmas Challenge. Your donation will have twice the impact this week as it will be doubled by matched funding. Use the button below to give before midday on Tuesday 7th December.

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