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The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) today launched a new project to expand HIV treatment and prevention efforts for adolescents in urban settings in Kenya and Zambia. The two-year, $2 million (£1.2 million) project will aim to improve the overall well-being and quality of life for adolescents 15-19 years of age through expansion of access to and quality of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment, and support services. The project is focused on identifying adolescents who are living with HIV and getting them on treatment through expanded and targeted HIV testing in the urban settings of Kisumu, Kenya and Lusaka, Zambia.

There are currently more than 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV, many of whom don’t know their HIV status and therefore are not on treatment. Through this new partnership, the EGPAF and EJAF will seek to increase access to and adherence to treatment for adolescents, both of which are significantly lower in adolescents than in adults living with HIV. Adherence to treatment is essential to ensure that adolescents living with HIV survive and lead healthy lives. According to UNAIDS, more than 120,000 adolescents died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2013.

“Despite an overall decrease in the number of AIDS-related deaths worldwide, this number is actually increasing among adolescents,” stated Charles Lyons, EGPAF president and CEO. “We must end AIDS-related deaths and new infections in adolescents if we want to see the end of the global AIDS epidemic by 2030. Our new partnership with EJAF will allow us to reach this vulnerable population with critical services that will halt the spread of HIV among young people and bring us one step closer to achieving an AIDS-free generation.”

This new project aligns with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)’s recently launched DREAMS initiative, which seeks to expand access to HIV treatment and prevention services and reduce HIV incidence among adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 by 40 percent by the end of 2017.

“Africa is seeing an explosion in its youth population. There are 30 percent more adolescents now than at the start of the AIDS epidemic, so it’s essential we escalate our efforts to reach this group,” said Anne Aslett, executive director of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “In particular, we need to reach young women, who account for an estimated 74 percent of new HIV infections amongst adolescents. Our collaboration with EGPAF will identify more adolescents at risk of HIV, help save the lives of those infected, and prevent onward transmission of the disease among their peers. In so doing, it will enable and amplify the broader aspirations of the DREAMS initiative, by protecting thousands of young women from HIV/AIDS and supporting their transition into adulthood.”