Around the world, adolescent girls remain at high risk for acquiring HIV because of social and institutional factors, including child marriage and gender-based violence. UNICEF estimated there were at least 80,000 adolescents living with HIV in Zambia in 2009. The encouraging growth of home-based and provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling will likely increase the number of adolescent girls who learn they are living with HIV in upcoming years. As a result, there will likely be an increased demand for treatment, care and support services in Zambia. Despite this burgeoning demographic of young Zambians living with HIV, psychosocial support and health care services for adolescent girls is limited. This deficit is worsened by the prevalence of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, as well as gender-based prejudice that affects the daily lives of girls living with HIV.
In an effort to address this gap in services, ICRW, in partnership with Zambart, will conduct a qualitative study in Zambia looking at the challenges adolescent girls living with HIV face as they transition to adulthood. With support from the MAC AIDS Fund, this research will study the unique stigma- and gender-related obstacles girls endure while facing some of the challenges of living with HIV such as adhering to medication regimens and clinical appointments, navigating safe sexual relationships, and handling the psychosocial challenges of learning of and disclosing their status. Through participatory workshops and interviews, ICRW will identify key challenges and stigma-related concerns surrounding HIV and pinpoint areas for intervention development to support healthy transitions to adulthood for these girls.
With this information, ICRW hopes to inform national programming and policies for adolescent girls living with HIV in Zambia. Beyond that, ICRW hopes this study will garner increased attention and action to address the needs and concerns of adolescents living with HIV around the world, with a particular focus on addressing HIV-related stigma and discrimination.