SEATTLE — In the country of Djibouti, adolescents under 25 make up 50 percent of the population. Despite this, 59 percent of 13-18-year-olds remain uneducated. This leads to an increased risk of exposure to drug abuse, alcoholism and STIs–particularly HIV.
HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular diseases such as tuberculosis and other infectious diseases such as cholera and malaria are common in Djibouti. There have been many efforts to improve healthcare in Djibouti, especially when it comes to HIV prevention. Initiatives began in 2008 when Family Health International proposed using transport corridors to supply the then war-ravaged area with social services. A more recent step was the building of a 2000-square-foot clinic in 2013.
Even with these steps, Djibouti does not have adequate access to health care education, including sex education. The leading cause of HIV is the practice of unsafe sex. A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report shows that adolescents 15-24 have insufficient knowledge of safe sex practices and contraceptives. Due to this lack of education, Djibouti has become one of many developing countries affected by the HIV epidemic.
In attempts to counteract this, the Djiboutian parliament has adopted a plan to fast-track the end of HIV. Leaders and representatives of different health organizations attended a workshop to create a plan to further progress in decreasing HIV and ending the widespread infection. Many HIV prevention plans involved drawing up legislation to strengthen protection of those living with HIV. The workshop also reviewed challenges such as the “limited uptake of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and pervasive stigma, discrimination and other human rights violations towards people living with HIV and key populations.”
UNICEF is making an impact with its HIV/AIDS prevention policy, which focuses on supporting youth organizations. These organizations provide peer education and voluntary counseling training; they also promote anonymous testing and a positive environment around the practice of safe sex. Education is the first step to HIV prevention. By educating adolescents, we could end the spread of the disease.
Increasing education and providing positive youth communities reduces the risk of exposure to unsafe activities that lead to diseases such as HIV. Although Djibouti is still at high risk, there are many HIV prevention methods working to end the epidemic.
– Taylor Elgarten