As girls around the world continually experience gender discrimination and inequality, October 11 is Day of the Girl which aims to promote youth rights and gender justice for girls all around the world. MTV Staying Alive has supported more than 200 organisations over two decades. Of the 38 projects we currently fund globally, 1 in 3 work with girls and young women. In countries such as Pakistan, Rwanda and Zambia our grantee partners are using a variety of approaches – including social enterprise projects with HIV messaging or integrating HIV education into pervasive initiation ceremonies – all aimed at educating girls about their sexual health and rights.
Over the last two decades, we have seen massive progress in the reduction of HIV infections globally. However, young people, and young girls in particular have been left behind by much of this wider progress. For women aged 15-44 years, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death worldwide and every two minutes, an adolescent somewhere in the world is infected with HIV. If you are young, the risks are significant, but if you are a young girl from a region like Sub Saharan Africa, the chances of infection are alarmingly high. Women and girls, for example, account for 74% of new HIV infections among adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Many factors increase girls’ vulnerability to HIV, including limited access to education and sexual health information, sexual violence, harmful traditional practices, and exclusion from economic opportunities. 98 million girls around the world are not in school, yet we know that a girl who has a basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV.
If we are to bring the spread of HIV to a halt we need to put a spotlight on adolescent girls. At the MTV Staying Alive Foundation we’re doing this by funding girls-led organisations who are tackling HIV in their local communities, using methods and tools they know are most effective when it comes to reaching their peers.
Giving girls the tools and knowledge to make their own choices in life is key to ending the HIV epidemic and bridging inequality. Together with continued support from our donors and supporters, we can provide young women with access to vital sexual health information and services and make a real and lasting contribution towards ending the spread of HIV.