Martha Clara speaking up, supporting the Global Fund’s ‘Step Up the Fight’ campaign
For many adolescent girls and young women, HIV/AIDS and the challenges it brings still present significant hurdles to progressing towards the lives they want to lead and dreams they desire to pursue in the future. Girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa remain disproportionately affected by HIV: they are twice as likely to acquire it compared to their male contemporaries.1 Added to this, many are still left behind in several spheres and thus continue to face numerous sexual and reproductive health challenges not limited to teenage pregnancy, period poverty, gender-based violence, and exploitation. Existing gender inequalities also continue to exacerbate restrictions to the realisation of our fullest potentials. Many girls continue to lack access to basic health information and related resources they need to make informed decisions to look after their own health. The daily challenges faced by communities of adolescent girls and young women truly illustrates why cross-organisational partnerships and re-engaging in the problems at hand are so vital to the HIV response for underserved and over-burdened populations like us.
During my recent role as the Her Voice Fund Ambassador for Uganda, another Y+ initiative which is supported by the Global Fund and Positive Action, ViiV Healthcare’s grant-giving programme for adolescent girls and young women, it became more evident that throwing money at a problem no longer cuts it. We need to re-organise communities, encourage a shift from simple problem-solving towards strengthening resilient systems that address structural challenges, speak to realities, and impactfully sustain change. This is particularly important as we re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and re-engage with the HIV response. To achieve this, initiatives should be owned and sustained by the communities they are designed to support.
Martha Clara has also been involved with the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV & AIDS (UNYPA)
Aligned with the theme of AIDS 2022, the need to re-engage at all levels is clear if we want to harness the power of partnerships and drive meaningful progress. It is about combining our collective voices and efforts to create bigger impact. I believe we have progressed over the years, through our undeniable solidarity and shared responsibility. However, there are still many missed opportunities to streamline and amplify our actions for mostly populations that continue to be left behind such as adolescent girls and young women. Partnerships are critical for maximising investment in initiatives that address these challenges, but it is crucial for donors to understand that to achieve a strengthened system, this effort should be complementary, not competitive. Now is the time to re-engage with the human side of HIV and adopt an approach where all stakeholders look at one another as collaborators sustaining the support. In other words, the problem at hand should always unite us.