Young women and adolescent girls are disproportionately affected by HIV—in 2015, 75% of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa were among adolescent girls aged 10–19 years. There is still an urgent need to promote prevention programmes for young women and adolescent girls, to realize the sexual and reproductive rights of young women and adolescent girls and to guarantee access to services.
Empowering young women and adolescent girls to claim their rights, creating an environment where they can live free from discrimination and violence, is critical. The risk of acquiring HIV tends to be associated with gender inequalities, such as gender-based violence, lack of access to secondary education, early or forced marriage and lack of choice about how and with whom to have sex.
Young women must be meaningfully involved in developing policies and programmes. The causes of inequality also need to be addressed and girls and boys, women and men need to be involved in challenging discrimination, promoting gender equality and preventing gender-based violence.
Investment in comprehensive HIV prevention programmes integrated with sexual and reproductive health and rights will reduce new HIV infections among young women and adolescent girls. But it will also contribute to good health, well-being and safety, not only for girls and women but also for their communities and beyond.