The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) has spotlighted groundbreaking initiatives aimed at engaging adolescents in accessing critical health services, particularly Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
This unveiling occurred at the Paediatric Adolescent Treatment Africa (PATA) 2023 Summit, a synchronized event held across 13 countries, including Lesotho, through 22 in-country satellites.
Addressing the summit, Thabang Rabaholo, Adolescent Priority Population Advisor at EGPAF, emphasised the pivotal role adolescents and young people play in shaping the global future.
Rabaholo underscored the urgent need for tailored healthcare for this demographic, given their increased vulnerability to risky health behaviours, including unsafe sex, alcohol, and drug abuse.
“Lesotho harbours 597,266 adolescents and young people aged 10-24, comprising 300,152 adolescent girls and young women and 297,115 adolescent boys and young men,” Rabaholo stated.
Shocking statistics from UNAIDS Spectrum estimates revealed that out of the 5,300 new HIV infections recorded in 2022, approximately 35.4 percent (1878) were in young people aged 15-24, with nearly 80 percent stemming from adolescent girls.
Furthermore, LePHIA 2020 survey data highlighted an alarming HIV prevalence of 8.5 percent among adolescents aged 15-24.
In response to these challenges, EGPAF has pioneered initiatives like peer support groups, offering spaces for Adolescents and Young People Living with HIV (AYPLHIV) to address their multifaceted needs, spanning psychological, physical, spiritual, and social realms.
Additionally, EGPAF has launched “Operation 4 Zeros,” an ambitious initiative targeting zero viral load, missed doses, stigma and discrimination, and new infections.
Rabaholo expressed concern over persisting challenges faced by AYPLHIV, citing high viral loads, stigma, lack of HIV status disclosure, caregiver challenges, teenage pregnancies, inadequate adolescent-friendly health facilities, and an uptick in new HIV infections despite these interventions.
Luann Hatane from PATA in South Africa underscored the summit’s mission of positioning frontline health providers as key allies in eradicating AIDS in children and adolescents by 2030.
Hatane said the summit aimed to amplify frontline provider experiences, fortify clinic-community collaborations, and offer a platform for real-world solutions amidst global and national commitments.
However, Matšeliso Mohoanyane from the Ministry of Health revealed significant gaps in pediatric and adolescent program data, even though the nation had achieved the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets according to LePHIA 2020.
Mohoanyane said these disparities indicated an urgent need for focused interventions and resources to address critical healthcare gaps among the country’s young population.