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The Path to an AIDS Free Generation: Teen Club Study

Today is World AIDS day, and globally there are an estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV.

While there have been massive strides made in the global response over the last decade, HIV is still the leading cause of death for African teenagers, and in fact increased between 2001 – 2012, contrary to a global decease in AIDS-related deaths as a whole. If we are to reach the UN’s ambitious goal of ending AIDS by 2030, it is imperative that the key population of adolescents living with HIV demands the world’s focused efforts.

Adding such timely and valuable research to this topic, is a promising study recently published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society by program implementers and researchers from Dignitas Intnernational, Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation in Malawi, and the Malawi Ministry of Health.

The study looks at the impact of Teen Club on retention in care amongst adolescents between the ages of 10-19, living with HIV on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment.  Teen Club, is a specialized adherence and psychosocial support program that has been implemented across Malawi, and has been operational at Tisungane Clinic, a tertiary referral HIV Clinic, in Zomba, Malawi since 2010.  This differentiated model of care provides adolescents living with HIV a positive space, to gather together socially, receive peer support, specialized counselling, education on sexual and reproductive health and adherence strategies, while collecting their HIV medications on a special monthly Saturday clinic dedicated especially to teens.

The findings are compelling. Teens exposed to Teen Club were 3.7 times more likely to stay on treatment compared to teens who weren’t. In addition, it also shows that older adolescents aged between 15-19 are two times as likely to default from care as compared to their younger counterparts aged 10-14 which is similar to other studies, demonstrating an especially important need for older adolescents to be supported as they transition to adulthood and adult care.

This study is one of the first studies to look at the impact of a youth-targetted programmatic intervention on retention in care using retrospective program data, and lays the foundation for further prospective intervention research, that could potentially help programmes and policy makers prioritize cost-effective care models of care for adolescents in low resource settings.

As we are reminded on this World AIDS Day to ensure the right to health for all, it’s essential that we pay close attention to key populations like adolescents who are particularly vulnerable and often left behind.

Specialized care like Teen Club shows great potential in getting us one step closer eradicating AIDS by 2030.

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Dignitas InternationalThe Path to an AIDS Free Generation: Teen Club Study