Children and young people

A devastating 18 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. And each day, more than 2,400 young people become infected with HIV.

HIV infections have reduced among children, but there are still an estimated 260,000 new infections annually in low- and middle-income countries.

Young people account for 40% of all new HIV infections and some five million young people aged 15-24 live with HIV.

Juliette lost both her parents to AIDS. She was adopted by Edith Nakafu through the organisation Help a Friend when she was four. Mukono, Uganda. (c) Nell Freeman for the Alliance

Avoidable infections

Most children living with HIV acquired the virus from their mothers during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. This doesn’t need to happen – interventions exist which dramatically reduce the likelihood of transmission of HIV between mothers and their unborn children (down to a 2% risk), but these interventions are not always widely available in the countries where we work.

We increase children and families’ access to HIV services, and pregnant women who test positive for HIV are supported with treatment to keep their babies HIV free and we work with community organisations to give children and families the support they need.

We target the most marginalised and most at risk children, including children of drug users, children of sex workers, street children and working children. Marginalised children are harder to reach with services, meaning a community-based response – where these children can be identified and the support taken to them rather than them having to opt to access it - is essential.

Slipping through the crack

HIV is now estimated to be the number two cause of death among adolescents aged 10-19 globally, and the number one in Africa.

That’s why ambitious programmes like Link Up - our five country project aiming to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV - are critical.

We are providing sexual health services, support and advice to young people age 10-24 years. We want all children and young people to be supported to develop the self-confidence, skills and understanding they need to enjoy and take responsibility for their sexual lives, sexual health and wellbeing.

We work with local health clinics and community organisations to create services where young people feel safe and comfortable.

Our particular focus is on young women and men living with HIV, young people selling sex and children who are exploited for sex, young men who have sex with men and young transgender people, all of whom experience extreme difficulties accessing services due to the high levels of stigma, discrimination, and in some cases, the fear of arrest.