The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and partners have launched a new initiative which pledges support for HER – HIV Epidemic Response – an initiative to build private sector support for programs that address HIV in 13 African countries where adolescent girls and young women face disproportionate risk.
Nearly 7,000 young women and girls are infected with HIV every week, concentrated in East and Southern Africa. At the same time, the 15-24 year-old population of Africa has doubled since 1990, so addressing HIV incidence is critical to preventing a catastrophic resurgence of the epidemic. In the hardest-hit countries, girls account for more than 80 percent of all new HIV infections among adolescents.
“We have made incredible gains against AIDS over the past generation,” said Peter Sands, incoming Executive Director of the Global Fund. “But we see a serious threat to that progress if we do not directly address the challenges faced by adolescent girls and young women.”
HER offers a platform for partners to contribute in a variety of ways: financial resources to accelerate the most impactful HIV prevention programs; in-kind expertise to support countries to pilot new approaches and implement innovative programs tailored to meet the needs of adolescent girls and young women; support for HER Voice, a fund which helps ensure young women’s and girls’ voices are heard at key decision-making forums; awareness raising with employees and customers. HER follows great work by PEPFAR and other partners that focuses on adolescent girls and young women.
Sands announced the HER initiative at the Global Goals Gathering, convened at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The event was hosted by renowned activist Malala Yousafzai, and by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Global Fund was one of 19 organizations joining together to highlight the need for accelerated action to achieve the Global Goals, which include a promise to end AIDS by 2030.
Sands announced partner commitments from The Coca-Cola Company, Standard Bank, Unilever and ViiV Healthcare, as well as Product (RED), which will expand its operations in Africa with the support of A4A, Coca-Cola and SAP.
“Ending the HIV epidemic isn’t just about infections averted, it’s about potential unleashed,” said Sands. “Effective programs to prevent HIV must address what drives new infections: poverty, lack of education, gender inequality, violence. Investing to end the epidemic is an investment in healthier societies, and the business community has a vital role to play.”