Making Healthy Transitions to Adulthood in Africa
Youth around the globe undergo a lot of changes on their way to becoming adults. They finish school, have to find jobs, start independent households, form stable unions, begin new families.
Yet, in countries with HIV/AIDS epidemics, young people need to do all this while trying to reduce their risks of contracting HIV/AIDS. They are not always successful. More than 40 per cent of new HIV infections happen among people under 25.
Nowhere are the risks higher than in eastern and southern Africa, where, as of Dr. Shelley Clark’s appointment, HIV/AIDS rates for adults had reached 18.8 per cent in South Africa, 24.1 per cent in Botswana, and 20.1 per cent in Zimbabwe.
Inside these terrible statistics, though, is even worse news for the young women fo these regions: they become infected younger than males and, in much of sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of HIV/AIDS is two to eight times higher among adolescent women than among adolescent men.
Building on her research on the transition into early marriage and on girls’ risks of getting HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, Clark’s work explores how young men and women’s different paths to adulthood affect their abilities to become successful, healthy, HIV-negative adults. Rich life-course and longitudinal survey research in Kenya and Malawi is letting Clark put teens’ choices and health outcomes in the broader context of their life histories.
By identifying beneficial and harmful paths, Clark’s research will help developing countries set social policies designed to promote “healthy trajectories.” The research will also help develop more effective program interventions that target critical transition periods in people’s lives.