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I was talking about HIV to some adolescents in Abidjan when one of them asked the following question: "Can people living with HIV have children? if yes, how"? That question from an adolescent made me realize how the needs for those living with HIV are misunderstood, unmet and how little information is being shared to them.
Globally there are 5 millions of young people living with HIV. And 3 900 000 of them live in Sub Saharan Africa. And these young people want - and deserve- to have relationships, children and families. While in our countries most programs target HIV prevention, very few address the needs of those who already have HIV . Is this a denial of their right to sexuality and reproduction?
As young people living with HIV transition from childhood through adolescence to young adulthood, they face a range of specific needs, including accessing treatment, tackling stigma and discrimination, and accessing youth-friendly integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health services.
The sexual and reproductive needs of those with HIV are specific. Even if efforts are made to enable people living with HIV to have HIV negative children, there is few information available about contraception for young women with HIV who do not want to have children, and young women with HIV lack information on how HIV particularly affects their body .
Specific and adapted and friendly services are needed for young people with HIV to enjoy safe, healthy and pleasurable sexual life.
Targeted and youth-friendly programs are therefore needed to meet the needs of these young people. Meeting these needs will result in the decrease of new HIV both vertical and horizontal infection. The sexual and reproductive health of those living with HIV therefore need attention in order to achieve the zero new HIV infections goal.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0270/Christine Nesbitt