Despite improved health prospects for people living with HIV (PLHIV), young people are still falling through the gaps of HIV services. Stigma, discrimination, prohibitive laws and a lack of targeted services are responsible for leaving young people behind in the fight against AIDS.
In Zambia, the HIV epidemic is mature and persistent; HIV prevalence has remained largely unchanged since the mid-nineties at the height of the epidemic. Unlike women, boys and men have fewer entry points to access HIV prevention, testing and treatment due to a lack of tailored services, and are less likely to seek out services. A study in sub-Saharan Africa found that 6% of married men would take advantage of HIV testing programmes, compared to 18% of married women.
HIV and AIDS related stigma remains a major barrier to HIV services. Studies show that longstanding social attitudes and stereotyping of men can lead men to not use condoms or avoid health services. The stigma associated with HIV can also prevent men from getting tested and seeking treatment, impeding efforts to prevent new infections. This poses a particular challenge for PLHIV in rural areas in Zambia, where they are 32% more likely to experience stigma and are underserved with appropriate services compared to urban areas.
In today’s #IASYouthVoices, Cleopas shares his story as a young man living with HIV in Zambia. Although Cleopas is able to access ARV treatment, he explains that he still faces many obstacles.
Learn more about Cleopas’s story and other IAS Youth Voices by following #IASYouthVoices on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.