Adolescents Living with HIV
Support and Empower adolescents living with HIV.
Adolescents (10-19 years) living with HIV in all districts.
With the first case of AIDS in Namibia reported in 1986, Namibia’s epidemic has since matured with a changing age profile of children in need of HIV care. The ANC prevalence peaked at 22% in 2002 and has now decreased to 18% (2012). Given that infection progresses slowly in 25 to 30% of those infants infected through mother to child transmission, the median life span of these infants is 14–16 years, even without ART. These HIV+ adolescents then become part of the relatively large youthful population which is characterized by early sexual debut.
It is estimated that 159 744 adults over the age of 15 years are living with HIV/AIDS. Improved access to pediatric ART and provision of HIV care has meant greater proportions of HIV infected infants surviving to adolescence. Despite the growing numbers there has been little focus in providing this group with specialized care. There are no dedicated services for adolescents living with HIV and AIDS and children generally move from pediatric to adult care services at 8-12 years of age. There is no data on child and ALHIV disaggregated by age 5-14 or 10–19 years.
Recent data from the National referral hospital shows that AIDS is now the most common reason for hospitalization in adolescence with mother to child the most likely mode of transmission. There has been considerable emphasis on prevention of HIV infection but much less on the care of those already infected. There is an emerging epidemic of adolescent survivors of HIV, with clinics reporting challenges faced by adolescents ranging from disclosure (21%), adherence to treatment (36%), psycho-social issues(56%) and reproductive health (8%).
Data sources: HIV Sentinel Surveillance 2012; Katutura Hospital HIS; MOHSS Estimates and Projections of the Impact of HIV/AIDS in Namibia 2009/10
By end 2018, 80% of Adolescent benefit from comprehensive health services including HIV prevention, treatment and care
Indicator: Number of young people 15-24 tested during last year.
UNICEF in Action
Many Namibian adolescents who live with HIV were infected as infants and have survived into their teens. HIV testing among the youth is low and many adolescents do not know their status. Teens are also the least likely to have all the correct facts about HIV and AIDS. Without this critical knowledge of their health, as well as access to HIV services, they become part of a large pool of young people who start having sex early, often unprotected, and risk passing on HIV.
Vulnerable adolescents need understanding, guidance and better access to critical services to make healthy lifestyle choices, stop the transmission of HIV and have a say in the design and implementation of programmes that affect them. This is why UNICEF and its partners focus on improving access to health services for adolescents and creating platforms for participation through sports for development, child parliament and various life skill-based initiatives.