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On World AIDS Day 2017, UNFPA and AfriYAN (African Youth and Adolescent Network) representatives gathered together to hold a candlelit vigil to acknowledge the impact HIV/AIDS is having on adolescent girls and young women in Tanzania. Today, 68 girls will be newly-infected with the virus. UNFPA and AfriYAN representatives lit 68 candles; one candle as a reminder of every girl whose life will be impacted today.

At the event, UNFPA Assistant Representative, Christine Mwanukuzi-Kwayu, reflected on the meaning and symbolism of a candle: “Candles can depict sorrow, but also happiness. They bring light where there is darkness. As much as on this day we remember those who have passed away and those who are infected, we stand firm in our commitment to protect those who need protection.”

Petrider Baul, a member of UNFPA's Youth Advisory Panel and AfriYAN, spoke about the need for the HIV response to include education: “On World AIDS Day, I stand with other girls in Tanzania and across the world. So many people are being infected and this can be prevented if girls and communities are educated.”

In Tanzania, like much of Eastern and Southern Africa, girls and young women are twice as likely as boys and young men of the same age group to contract the virus. This vulnerability to HIV is driven by gender inequality, including gender-based violence, which limits girls’ ability to make safe choices about their sexual and reproductive health.

Young people’s vulnerability to HIV is exacerbated by a lack of access to comprehensive rights-based sexual and reproductive health services, and by exclusion from decision-making processes.

UNFPA Tanzania’s response

UNFPA HIV prevention efforts are designed to reach vulnerable girls and young women with the information and services they need to stay safe.

UNFPA has worked with the Ministry of Youth to produce a life skills education manual for out-of-school youth, which helps to reach the most vulnerable adolescent girls and young women. Life skills education is critical to equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, which will empower them to protect their health, well-being, and dignity.

UNFPA supports the development of Youth-Friendly Services, a comprehensive package of services including: access to sexual and reproductive health information; safe and affordable contraceptives; age appropriate and sensitive counselling; quality obstetric and antenatal care for pregnant girls; and the prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

UNFPA has supported the Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) to strengthen comprehensive condom programming to ensure adolescents and young people have access to condoms to protect themselves against and to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

UNFPA also works with the Ministry of Health and TACAIDS to ensure girls and young women who are already living with HIV can exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Its work on HIV and sexual and reproductive health integration means that adolescents and young people who are living with HIV have improved access to information and services, including family planning. 

Promoting youth leadership and participation is key to UNFPA Tanzania’s work. UNFPA supports AfriYAN and other youth networks that enable young people to develop the skills and knowledge they need to make informed decisions to ensure that they make a healthy transition from adolescence to adulthood.