By Sharon Atieno

Though enormous progress has been made to deal with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the African region, the youth still remain behind. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office in Africa has launched a new campaign targeting this group.

The social media campaign dubbed #TheTeaOnHIV, aims to better inform at least one million adolescents and young people about preventing HIV infection as well as leaving positively with the virus.

“We must stop leaving adolescents and young people behind. We need to do more to deliver stronger prevention strategies and adolescent-and youth-friendly health services- when and where they need them and in ways that they accept,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.

“This social media campaign aims to equip young Africans with the right information to start breaking the barriers that prevent them from getting support.”

Dr. Frank Lule and Doreen Moraa at the launch

Speaking during the launch, Dr. Frank Lule, WHO Regional Office in Africa noted that awareness among young people is not universal, with only 3 out of 10 having comprehensive knowledge about HIV.

“The tools we have been using to communicate may not be resonating with the group we are targeting,” he said.

In 2018, almost 1.5 million (89%) of the 1.6 million adolescents living with HIV globally lived in sub-Saharan Africa. Two out of three of them acquired the virus through mother-to-child transmission. In addition, there were 157,000 new infections.

AIDS continues to be a leading cause of death for adolescents and young people in high-burden countries with lack of proper information worsening the situation.

The campaign also intends to expand the group of HIV champions helping spread information on HIV and advocate quality adolescent-and-youth friendly health services.

Doreen Moraa

“I use my social media platforms to advocate for young people living with HIV,” says Doreen Moraa, 27, a HIV champion during the launch. “On my Facebook page (Doreen Moraa Moracha), I have declared: I am HIV- positive. I am not sick. I am not sad. I am not dying. I am just a fabulous host to a tiny virus.”

“I have been sharing my story on various social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and the feedback has been positive,” said Kimutai Kemboi, 28, a HIV advocate on disclosure.

The regional campaign also advocates for health services which respond to the needs of the youth following the eight global standards developed by WHO. These standards include health services which are non-discriminatory and protect adolescents’ right to privacy; engage adolescents and youth in their own care and at convenient times (available beyond school hours) and work with peers in service delivery.