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close this bookYoung Women: Silence, Suspectibility and the HIV Epidemic (UNDP, 10 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGender as an independent variable for hiv infection
View the documentSilence
View the documentAge as an independent variable for hiv infection
View the documentAnatomy as destiny?
View the documentSituational factors
View the documentThe unheard scream
View the documentThe prophetic voice
View the documentAn action agenda
View the documentBreaking the silence
View the documentChanging the operational research agenda
View the documentSanctuaries
View the documentSanctions
View the documentSafety
View the documentRestructuring gender
View the documentThe circle of the dance
View the documentReferences

An action agenda

We must respond to this tragedy. There are two essential elements in the immediate strategy. First, the silence around the infection of young women must be challenged at every level: individuals, families, communities and organizations, nations and internationally. Second, a new research agenda must be established. The established hypotheses and assumptions about the nature of the epidemic, about research priorities and about gender must be set aside so that the research agenda can be reconceptualized. To do this, those responsible for the agenda must also change. The critically important and insightful work of Nancy Alexander25, Bruce Forrest22, Elizabeth Duncan23, Zena Stein34 and others must be acknowledged, valued and acted upon.

These two elements are necessary but not sufficient conditions for an effective strategy to protect girls and young women from being infected through their sexual and reproductive activities. An effective strategy will need to address all the factors which directly contribute to their susceptibility to infection. It must also address, in the short term wherever possible but certainly in the longer term, the indirect contributory factors.35 There will be many elements in such an action agenda. Here we identify only a few to stimulate thought and discussion.

Neither the immediate strategy nor the broader response will be effective without political will and pressure for change. Politicians, community leaders and parents will need the courage to speak out to save these lives, to save the continuity of life. We are all responsible.