“Why I am not scared of knowing my HIV status”

Today, All In! a campaign to end AIDS in adolescents has launched. It’s a global initiative led by UNAIDS and UNICEF, to reduce the unnecessary deaths of adolescents living with HIV by at least 75% by 2020.

We’re already fully committed to ending AIDS in adolescents and this is welcome attention on what has been a neglected issue that has resulted in an increase in AIDS-related deaths among 10-19 year olds, the only age group where deaths are on the rise.

In order to reverse this shocking fact there is a lot to do, and it must be young people themselves that determine the actions required in order for the campaign to be effective.

Key Correspondent, James Odong, hears from teens in the districts of Katakwi and Soroti in Eastern Uganda, on taboos, the importance of adolescents knowing their status, barriers to this, and youth friendly services.

Nine months ago, Sarah Acibo, 16, was a typical Ugandan adolescent full of life and nursing grand ambitions about a comfortable future. But then her dreams were shattered.

She tells me that she became pregnant as a result of sex with a man who lured her with money. We are seated under the shade of a tree outside the Magoro Health Centre laboratory in Katakwi District, where Sarah is waiting for the results of an HIV test.

“Before it was difficult to get a test for HIV,” she says. "Katakwi Health Centre IV was the only place in Katakwi we could get these tests, but it is very far away. But now we have this lab here we can come and find out immediately.”

I need to be healthy and make sure my children grow up healthy.

Sarah says she isn't scared of knowing her status. "I need to know," she says. "If it is positive then I need to start coping with my HIV status. I need to be healthy and make sure my children grow up healthy."

Sarah believes attitudes towards HIV among the adolescents in Magoro have changed for the better since more people started being open about their status.

However, Gabriel Esiku from Soroti Municipality says young men are afraid to go and test because of stigma. “That is why you find many men who contract HIV die, because they don’t go to test and start treatment if they are found HIV positive,” Esiku says.

Read the article in full on the Key Correspondents site here.