Young 1ove - It's time to talk about HIV/AIDS
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When I was six years old, my mother died of HIV but I was never told what happened to her. Even today, talking about safe sex and HIV in my country, Botswana, remains taboo. As a young female activist at university, I was desperate to change the way young people view, and talk about, HIV/AIDS. During one of my courses, I read a research paper about a class on “sugar daddies” in Kenya that had reduced teenage pregnancy by 28%! This resonated with me as it shows that openly discussing issues around HIV with young women can actually save lives. My classmate, Noam, and I decided to join forces and together we founded our organization, Young 1ove.
One of the main issues impacting the HIV rate among young women particularly is the “sugar daddy” phenomenon. These older partners have unprotected sex with girls in exchange for gifts, fueling the HIV epidemic and high rates of teenage pregnancy. There is a misconception among young people about which age group is most likely to have HIV but research shows that the older the partner, the higher the risk.
There is a lot of research about HIV prevention but most young women simply don’t have direct access to this life-saving information and the stigma around talking about sexuality is a huge barrier, undermining the efforts of governments and civil society to eradicate HIV. In Botswana, we don’t talk enough about our personal stories so young people assume that sexuality and sexual health is a secret, feared and abstract topic. They don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents about these issues and they don’t even feel confident going to a clinic for condoms. As a result, these young people are more likely to engage in unsafe sex, either with each other or with a riskier, older partner.
In a bid to tackle this issue, Young 1ove aims to connect youth to proven, life-saving information through evidence-based educational programmes. We look at what works and plan our interventions accordingly. Over the next three years, we aim to scale up our programmes to reach 1 million youth across Eastern and Southern Africa. When it comes HIV and sexuality education, publishing research is not enough. We need to create messaging and deliver information that is relevant and relatable to young people. And we need to start talking.