Tackling HIV by Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women

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Subedar H., Barnett S., Chaka T., Dladla S., Hagerman E., Jenkins S. Matshimane G., Mangold K., Msimanga B., Pooe R., Schultz L. and Pillay Y.

Despite a recent fall in new infections, South Africa still has the largest HIV epidemic in the world and has not achieved the 50% reduction envisaged in its national strategic plan for 2012-16. Adolescent girls and young women are disproportionately affected by HIV, with prevalence among 20-24 year olds three times higher in women (16%) than in men (5%), and females aged 15-24 years accounting for 37% of new infections. Amid the competing priorities for HIV funding, the current national plan (2017-22) calls for urgent focus on adolescent girls and young women.

Although many organisations and government departments target adolescent girls and young women, action has often been piecemeal, resulting in duplication of effort, funds not allocated strategically, and limited impact. On World AIDS Day 2015, South Africa’s deputy president called for a collective and collaborative response to the high rates of HIV and its key drivers among adolescent girls and young women. In June 2016, the government launched the three year She Conquers campaign. The campaign seeks to reduce HIV infections, improve overall health outcomes, and expand opportunities for adolescent girls and young women to decide their own futures. The campaign moves beyond a focus on disease transmission and associated stigma to a narrative of power.

This case study explores the nature of the intersectoral collaboration within She Conquers, highlighting the success factors, limitations, and challenges as well as the lessons learnt.