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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Columbia: Lesotho Study Reveals Factors Affecting Adolescent Girls and Young Women’s HIV Susceptibility

A recent study led by Dr. Andrea Low, clinical and scientific director of the PHIA project at ICAP, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and assistant professor of epidemiology, provides an in-depth understanding of the factors associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence and incidence among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), 15-24 years old, in Lesotho.

A small country encircled by South Africa, Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence in the world. In 2016-17, the Lesotho Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA) was conducted to measure HIV-related parameters among the population. LePHIA is part of the larger Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) project which began in 2015 to collect data on the HIV epidemic in the most-affected countries.

The study, published in Lancet HIV, used LePHIA data to estimate prevalence and incidence of HIV in AGYW and identify correlates of HIV infection. It found that AGYW continue to be at a much higher risk of infection than their male counterparts, despite having fewer sexual partners and higher reported condom use with high-risk partners, although they had older sexual partners than young men. Migration to South Africa was associated with HIV infection, whereas their mother’s educational level was found to be strongly protective against HIV infection in their daughters.

“Effective responses to address the HIV epidemic among AGYW requires targeted, preventive interventions which address gender inequality, lack of access to education, and poverty,” says Dr. Low, “along with improving access to treatment among their male partners.”

This study provides critical data which program implementers and policymakers can use towards tailoring HIV interventions for AGYW.

Full study.

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