To help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and worldwide, the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $7.5 million grant to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which will use the funds to conduct a five-year investigation into why young people in sub-Saharan Africa engage in risky sexual behavior that leads to contraction of the disease.
Adolescents and young adults are particularly susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, for a number of physiological and socio-cultural reasons. But programs that aim to help youth avoid STDs and unintended pregnancy historically have been developed without sufficient knowledge of youth behavior, attitudes, and motivations. In addition to the study of the root causes of youth sexual behavior, the New York City-based Guttmacher Institute, which will collaborate on the study with research partners in Africa, will also explore how current programs and policies in the sub-Saharan region are not effectively preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS infection.
"Sub-Saharan Africa faces the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly among adolescents, despite substantial preventive efforts. In some countries, particularly in southern and eastern Africa, adolescents have at least a 35 percent chance of dying of AIDS," said Guttmacher Institute president Sara Seims. "New evidence is desperately needed to adequately protect our most precious resource — the health and well-being of today's children and adolescents — and the entire world can benefit from seeing HIV through the eyes of young people."