World AIDS Day: Why Stigma Must Not be the Barrier to Tackling HIV Worldwide

30/11/2012 17:35 GMT | Updated 30/01/2013 10:12 GMT

We've come a long way in the fight to tackle HIV in developing countries - UK aid is helping to prevent 500,000 new HIV infections by 2015 in women through a range of prevention programmes. But there's still the hurdle of reaching people who are marginalised from the services they need and most at risk of infection.

It is a sad fact that for over 30 years people with HIV still experience stigma and discrimination. Tackling this is vital for efforts to halt and reverse the epidemic.

I've been in Zambia this week and have seen for myself the stigma that adolescent girls face. Globally in 2010 young people aged 15-24 accounted for 42% of new infections in people aged 15 and older. Among young people living with HIV, nearly 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa and young women have infection rates twice as high as young men. Teenage pregnancy in Zambia is also high (28%). Clearly young girls who are sexually active are not always receiving the health education they need and are embarrassed to admit that they require integrated reproductive health services.


Some health workers can be judgemental towards these young people and unfortunately too many clinics don't provide the privacy and sympathy these girls desperately need. It is for this reason that the UK Government will help to provide outreach services for adolescents in 26 rural and underserved districts of Zambia. In addition, the UK Government will provide counselling and testing services with family planning for 168,000 couples in urban and rural areas, many of which will be adolescents. This will help to address gender inequalities, as couples can more easily discuss reproductive health needs and disclose their HIV status if found positive.

Find out more about how British aid is working towards zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS related deaths.