Study finds structural determinants of adolescent girls' vulnerability to HIV

Published on July 14, 2011 at 8:22 AM · No Comments

A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that community members correlate an increase in HIV vulnerability among adolescent girls with weak structural support systems. While adolescent girls are three to four times more likely than adolescent boys to be living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, few studies have examined the reasons community members believe girls are so vulnerable to HIV. The findings are published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

Carol Underwood, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Health, Behavior and Society, explained, "This study represents one of the few efforts to explore community members' perceptions of vulnerability to HIV. It is unique because it offers insights into developing an HIV response that is grounded in the views of communities most affected by HIV/AIDS rather than a response based primarily on perspectives from the outside."

Underwood directed the Gender Initiative on Girls' Vulnerability to HIV (Go Girls! Initiative), an intervention informed by this study and carried out by the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Programs. The Go Girls! Initiative used focus group discussions with adolescent girls and boys, adult men and women and community opinion leaders, in Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique to develop social, gender, and behavior change communication approaches to reduce adolescent girls' susceptibility to HIV infection.

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