Youth

  • Toward an AIDS-Free Generation

    Today’s generation of young people has never known a world without HIV. Yet, according to a new report released by UNICEF, Children and AIDS: Sixth Stocktaking Report 2013, the promise is in reach of a world where no child is born with HIV and all children remain uninfected through adolescence. In the 33 years since the first HIV diagnosis, we have both seen the devastating impact of the disease and made impressive progress in HIV prevention and care.
    The introduction of lifesaving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs has reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV and increased life expectancy among perinatally infected infants. The rate of HIV infection among children is rapidly decreasing; since 2009, new HIV infections among children younger than 15 years of age have declined by 35 percent. Despite the enormous progress, much more must be done, especially for adolescents, before we are able to achieve an AIDS-free generation.

    According to the report, an estimated 2.1 million adolescents were living with HIV at the end of 2012. Although the overall number of global AIDS-related deaths for all ages declined by 30 percent between 2005 and 2012, AIDS-related deaths among adolescents increased by 50 percent during the same time period. Girls are disproportionately affected. In 2012, an estimated two-thirds of all new HIV infections among adolescents ages 15–19 occurred among girls. In Gabon, Sierra Leone and South Africa, girls accounted for more than 80 percent of all new infections among adolescents. Adolescent key affected populations — injecting drug users, men who have sex with men and individuals who trade or sell sex — are also extremely vulnerable. In Asia and the Pacific, more than 95 percent of new HIV infections occur among this population. This group of adolescents faces particular barriers to accessing services because of social stigma, violence and laws that criminalize risky behaviors.

    Continue reading

  • positive-connections-coverWhy adolescents?

    In 2012, young people ages 15 to 24 accounted for an estimated 40 percent of new nonpediatric HIV infections worldwide [UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report 2012]. Furthermore, perinatal HIV transmission is a major cause for HIV infection, and given the success of pediatric antiretroviral therapy (ART), many more infants born with HIV are growing up into adolescents and young adults living with HIV.

    While care and treatment programs for people living with HIV (PLHIV) can be found in every country, there is a gap in provision of ongoing, supportive counseling for adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV). Adolescence is often when young people begin having sex, which increases chances that adolescents living with HIV might pass the infection to partners who are HIV negative. Another concern is that girls living with HIV may become pregnant; if they do not know about or have access to services for preventing mother-to-child transmission, they can pass the infection to their babies. Given that adolescents are a large sub-group of those living with HIV, there is a need for tailored interventions and support systems that address adolescents’ unique vulnerabilities.

    Continue reading

  • Beyond ICFP 2013: Let’s keep the focus on youth

    A version of this post originally appeared on The Huffington Post. Reposted with permission.

    This year’s International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) saw the largest youth delegation in its history. Approximately 300 young people between the ages of 18 and 25 attended, doubling the number who participated in 2011. These young family planning activists moderated panels, delivered plenary presentations and assisted in launching ground-breaking publications, such as the United Nations Population Fund’s State of World Population 2013 report on adolescent pregnancy and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance’s paper on young people living with and affected by HIV. Young people’s needs were a major focus of conference presentations, events and press coverage. Government officials publically recognized the importance of young people and encouraged their active participation as emerging leaders in the field of family planning and reproductive health.

    The attention to the unique needs of this population could not be more timely. Every day, 20,000 girls under the age of 18 in developing countries give birth. That is roughly 833 girls every hour, or 14 girls each minute. Of the 7.3 million girls who give birth each year, two million are under the age of 15 (UNFPA). Adolescent mothers face devastating social, educational, economic and health outcomes. Girls who become pregnant confront discrimination within their communities and are often forced to drop out of school or get married. Pregnancy during adolescence increases the risk of anemia, postpartum hemorrhage, prolonged obstructed labor, obstetric fistula, malnutrition and mental health disorders. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-old girls (UNFPA). Furthermore, adolescent mothers are more likely to have a lower income and have more children at shorter intervals throughout their lifetime.

    Continue reading

  • Bullying Prevention Month: An ounce of prevention

    October is National Bullying Prevention Month, an opportunity to take action about a problem that, unfortunately, is becoming ever more pervasive and ever more lethal. Statistics tells us a child somewhere is bullied every seven minutes, 85 percent of the time there is no intervention of any kind, and an estimated 160,000 children miss school each day because of bullying. The recent cases of teens being driven to suicide because they were bullied online by classmates are chilling reminders that much more needs to be done.

    Where does it all begin? Research we conducted found that teasing and bullying are part of the fabric of daily life for students as early as kindergarten through grade three. It is during these early years that we must start to address the problem before it takes root and grows into even more pernicious behavior.

    As the use of cell phones, iPads, and other digital devices become part of the daily lives of young children, elementary school is the time for children to gain understanding of what it means to become a good Internet citizen. Even though young children may physically know how to move a mouse, manipulate an iPad, click on a game icon, or swiftly move though photos on a smart phone, this does not mean that they are prepared to use such devices.

    Continue reading

  • Celebrating International Literacy Day: FHI 360’s comprehensive approach

    Today’s celebration of International Literacy Day 2013 is an opportunity for the international development community to reflect upon and reinvigorate its approach to ensuring that all children are able to read and write. In recent years, a shift from focusing primarily on access to an increased focus on learning, particularly foundation skills such as reading and writing, has been an important step for children worldwide. At the same time, the desire for quick fixes to reduce childhood illiteracy may be contributing to the development of approaches that are too narrowly focused and do not consider all of the factors that shape a child’s ability to learn to read and write.

    Currently, the global education team at FHI 360 is implementing seven educational projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or Hess Corporation that focus on improving reading for children in early grades, in countries as diverse as Kosovo, Ethiopia and Peru. Although these projects differ according to their contexts, they are all rooted in the understanding that systems, schools, environmental and individual factors all play a role in creating a reader. This understanding is reflected in FHI 360’s approach to literacy improvement in primary schools: Literacy 360°. (See figure.)

    Continue reading

  • Protecting children from the unintended consequences of economic strengthening programs

    econstrength_degrees_smIt is a common belief that programs designed to increase household income will automatically have positive effects on children. In fact, the evidence shows that this assumption cannot be taken for granted. In some cases, the interventions that increase household economic activities actually lead to greater problems for children and youth, such as more child labor and less school attendance, particularly in the short term.

    For the past five years, the Child Protection in Crisis (CPC) Network and the Supporting Transformation by Reducing Insecurity and Vulnerability with Economic Strengthening (STRIVE) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by FHI 360, have sought to understand how economic strengthening programs affect children living in poverty and in humanitarian crises. To better inform practitioners, they collaborated to create Children and Economic Strengthening Projects: Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Harm, a new guide that explains how economic interventions can achieve better outcomes and impacts for children ages 0–18.

    Rooted in field experience, the guide shows how to mitigate the unintended threats to children from economic strengthening activities and ways to maximize benefits to children, whether they are the direct or indirect beneficiaries. The guide draws on the extensive child protection expertise of the CPC Task Force, the STRIVE project’s experience in facilitating cross-sectoral collaborations, and recognized best practices for market-based economic strengthening programming.1

    Continue reading

  • Development professionals who want to create effective interventions that improve the well-being of children and youth must have an in-depth understanding of how young people spend their time. Time-use research yields valuable, contextual data that can inform the design and implementation of interventions and the measurement of outcomes. This data sheds light on key measures of well-being, including school attendance, access to opportunities for play and socialization, safety, child labor and gender inequalities. Tracking changes in time use can also help projects identify successes and risks to children so that practitioners can suggest appropriate adjustments to interventions.

    Traditionally, this information has been gathered from adults. That input, however, can be skewed by the value adults place on certain activities, which is why it is important to work directly with children and youth to gather information on their time use.

    FHI 360’s Supporting Transformation by Reducing Insecurity and Vulnerability with Economic Strengthening (STRIVE) project developed a tool and guide for child-friendly, participatory rapid appraisal (PRA) to help with these efforts: The Time Use PRA Guide and Toolkit for Child and Youth Development Practitioners.

    Continue reading

  • Award-winning publication helps students with asthma keep active

    Regular physical activity is important for health and well-being. But for the estimated one in 10 students in the United States who have asthma, their condition may be viewed as a barrier to physical activity, particularly if their asthma is not well controlled.

    Thankfully, teachers, coaches, and school administrators now have an award-winning tool to guide them in supporting students who have asthma, so those students can participate fully and safely in physical activity — whether in the gym, on the playground or during a class field trip.

    The tool, Asthma & Physical Activity in the School: Making a Difference, was developed by FHI 360 and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The publication received a 2013 ClearMark Award from the Center for Plain Language, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that advocates for and supports the use of plain language in government, business and academic institutions. Its annual ClearMark Awards celebrate the best in plain language among public- and private-sector print and online communications.

    An update of the 1995 publication of the same name, this 32-page booklet provides school personnel with essential information in an easy-to-digest format that they can use to help students with asthma remain healthy and active. It explains technical asthma terms in simple language, calls out actions for school staff and includes helpful reproducible tools, such as asthma action plans and instructions on using asthma inhalers and other devices. The update reflects changes in asthma care guidelines, issued in 2007 by the NHLBI, and clarifies key points about asthma control.

    Continue reading

  • Getting to zero: National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day

    More than half of the world’s population is under the age of 30 and has never lived in a time without AIDS. Despite the steady progress of our collective scientific and community efforts to end the HIV epidemic, the lives of young people continue to be especially vulnerable. To bring attention to this ongoing crisis and to commit ourselves to achieving an AIDS-free generation, today marks the first National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day.

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50,000 people in the United States are infected with HIV each year. Of those, one in four is between 13 and 24 years old. Further, CDC reports that nearly 60 percent of new infections in youth occur in African Americans, 20 percent in Latinos and about 20 percent in whites. In 2010, CDC estimates that 87 percent of the 12,000 annual infections in youth occurred among gay and bisexual young men. Nearly half of all new infections among American youth occur in African American males.

    In a CDC Vital Signs report released for World AIDS Day 2012, the agency noted that “about 60 percent of youth do not know they are infected and so don’t receive treatment, putting them at risk for sickness and early death. These youth can also unknowingly pass HIV to others.”

    Continue reading

  • Every child has the right to be safe from harm. Still, millions of children around the world are abused, neglected and exploited every year. Because children who experience violence and abuse can become adults who are less able to contribute to their societies, protecting children from harm is a vital aspect of development programs. To that end, FHI 360 developed a three-part child protection toolkit to help our programs and local implementing partners protect the children they serve.

    The first manual, Child Protection Basics, presents the fundamental aspects of child protection. It describes different types of maltreatment and factors that contribute to child maltreatment. It also describes how to create a protective environment using a systems approach. The systems approach examines and addresses all the circumstances that challenge children’s well-being as a whole, rather than addressing each of them individually or in a fragmented way.

    The second manual, Guidelines and Programming Options for Protecting Vulnerable Children in Community-Based Care and Support Programs, can be used as a reference document for integrating child protection into the design of programs, strengthening existing programs and tailoring training. The manual shows the importance of conducting a child-protection analysis, which looks at risk factors, and outlines strategies and interventions that can be implemented at the child, family, community and government levels to protect children in accordance with global principles and best practices. The authors also discuss the importance of protecting children in emergencies and the need and challenges of ongoing monitoring and evaluation activities.

    Continue reading