Taconic Biosciences Adds New Humanized Immune System (HIS) Model to Its Portfolio For Immuno-Oncology Research

RENSSELAER, N.Y., Jan. 18, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Taconic Biosciences, a global leader in providing drug discovery animal model solutions, announces the launch of the huNOG–EXL EA (Early Access) humanized immune system (HIS) mouse. This product expands Taconic's widely used HIS portfolio. huNOG–EXL EA significantly lengthens the study window during which a myeloid–lineage HIS mouse model can be used successfully.

Taconic's huNOG–EXL models support human myeloid and lymphoid cells, making these mice especially useful for immuno–oncology research and other immune–related applications. With the longest lifespan of any myeloid–supportive HIS model, the original huNOG–EXL model (now called huNOG–EXL SA, or Standard Access) has been successfully applied in preclinical drug discovery research since 2016. The huNOG–EXL SA model is provided after a quality control step at 10 weeks post–engraftment. Feedback from users suggests research applications requiring particularly long study timelines or importation into regions with long quarantine periods present experimental and logistical hurdles that can limit the utility of the Standard Access (SA) model.

The new huNOG–EXL EA model removes those challenges by providing access to huNOG–EXL mice soon after engraftment, extending the useful study window. This makes the huNOG–EXL EA ideal for engraftment of slow–growing tumors, longer treatment paradigms, or various study customizations. Early access to an extended myeloid lineage model is also advantageous to researchers who face model importation quarantines, which would otherwise consume a significant portion of the useful study window for these mice. Because the huNOG–EXL EA model is shipped before an engraftment QC step is possible, it is made using cells from donors previously validated to engraft well so as to reduce the risk of engraftment failures.

"The huNOG–EXL EA model meets critical scientific needs for investigators performing immuno–oncology research or studying other immune–related diseases," said Dr. Michael Seiler, vice president of commercial products at Taconic. "After conducting extensive research and development, along with rigorous beta testing with several industry partners, Taconic is excited to now offer the new model and expand the usefulness of this unique humanized mouse."

To learn more about Taconic's huNOG–EXL EA model, please contact us at 1–888–TACONIC (888–822–6642) in the US, +45 70 23 04 05 in Europe, or email info@taconic.com.

About Taconic Biosciences, Inc.

Taconic Biosciences is a fully licensed, global leader in genetically engineered rodent models and services. Founded in 1952, Taconic provides the best animal solutions so that customers can acquire, custom–generate, breed, precondition, test, and distribute valuable research models worldwide. Specialists in genetically engineered mouse and rat models, microbiome, immuno–oncology mouse models, and integrated model design and breeding services, Taconic operates three service laboratories and six breeding facilities in the U.S. and Europe, maintains distributor relationships in Asia and has global shipping capabilities to provide animal models almost anywhere in the world.

Media Contact:

Nancy J Sandy

CEO

608–332–6320

Nancy.Sandy@taconic.com


Asia-Pacific: Just 5% of the Region’s Population Owns 70% of Its Total Wealth

Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Jan 18 2022 – The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing growing inequality even while registering impressive economic growth and poverty reduction. Such sharp inequalities continue to be persistent in the region, with nearly 2 in 4 people still unable to afford a healthy diet.

“The gains from socioeconomic development have favoured the wealthiest, with the wealthiest 5% of the population controlling close to 70% of total wealth in the region,” reports the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The Asia-Pacific region, comprising 58 countries and territories, has over the past few decades registered the fastest rate of economic growth globally and achieved gains in human and social development, informs the Commission.

“In the Asia and Pacific region, 1.9 billion people are unable to afford a healthy diet, driven by high prices of fruits, vegetables and dairy products, making it impossible for the poor to achieve healthy diets”

And it provides some examples: life expectancy has increased significantly. While poverty eradication efforts have released approximately a billion people from poverty, both income poverty and multidimensional poverty continue to exist alongside affluence within and between countries.

Despite these gains, “inequalities persist, with income, consumption and wealth concentrated among the top deciles of the population. Non-monetary inequalities exist between regions, gender, race, ethnicity, geography and age, as well as in access to services, including sexual and reproductive health services.”

The Asia-Pacific region is home to approximately 4.5 billion people, and its demographic landscape is diverse in terms of population growth and size, composition by age and sex, and spatial distribution, ESCAP explains in report about this region.

The largest world’s region’s multidimensional poverty is made up of several factors that constitute poor people’s experience of deprivation, such as poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standards, lack of income, disempowerment, poor quality of work and threat from violence.

 

Perpetuating inequality

“These circumstances often shape, accentuate and perpetuate inequalities in income and wealth.” For example, the outcome can be influenced by efforts made in education or the labour market.

The last category, inequality of impact, relates to the differential impact of certain events or phenomena, such as a natural disaster, on different groups.

The impact has often been greater on poor people, women, older persons, persons with disabilities and other marginalised groups.

 

High fertility

The report also explains that poverty, inequality and high fertility are closely associated. Poor households tend to have many children owing mainly to lack of access to and knowledge of contraceptives, low autonomy among women, and the demand for children for economic or household support.

Contraception is less accessible to women who are poor, less educated and living in rural areas. These fertility differentials perpetuate intergenerational poverty and inequalities.

 

No decent jobs for the young

In countries where the number of youths seeking jobs is high relative to employment opportunities, and where their skills do not match market requirements, young people often cannot find decent jobs, ESCAP adds.

“The share of workers in unpaid jobs in Asia is twice as high for young people aged 15–24 as for adults aged 25–29 years.

For example, youth unemployment rates in 2016 were as high as 39% in Armenia, 30% in the Islamic Republic of Iran and 18.8% in Fiji.

 

Human trafficking

“Workers’ fundamental rights, especially those of women and marginalised populations, have also been challenged by the rise in vulnerable employment, especially concentrated in agriculture, and affects women more than men.”

In South Asia and East Asia, approximately 40% and 30%, respectively, of identified victims of human trafficking and forced labour are children, the report alerts. Vulnerable employment covers jobs involving inadequate pay, low productivity and adverse working conditions.

 

Migration, an escape from inequalities

“Migration often occurs as an escape from inequalities of opportunity, including decent work in home countries, or a flight from persecution, climate change, conflict or poverty. There is migration for marriage and domestic work too.”

Many migrants, however, face other forms of inequalities such as precarious working conditions, human rights abuses and irregular employment in their countries of destination. A considerable proportion of international migration within and from the Asia-Pacific region is irregular.

 

Discriminated, Exploited…

“Migrants are also vulnerable to coercion, discrimination, exploitation and substandard labour conditions and benefits.”

Female migrants are often victimised on the grounds of both being female and being migrants. They face labour exploitation, including confinement, lack of pay and lack of rest days. Undocumented female migrants also have no access to sexual and reproductive health services, explains ESCAP.

 

Internal migration

Another defining megatrend is internal migration, which has increased in volume in the past few decades.

Increased internal migration has been due to fewer work opportunities in traditional agriculture and better employment opportunities in urban areas, manufacturing in urban areas and high-production agriculture.

 

Unprecedented urbanisation

According to the report, there has been unprecedented urbanisation as a result of a combination of natural population increase, rural-urban migration and reclassification.

“By 2050, two out of three people are expected to live in urban areas, with about 10% of the urban population living in megacities, and the rest living in medium-sized and small cities.”

Meanwhile, “approximately half of all urban dwellers in South Asia live in slums. In large countries such as Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, 30 to 60% of the urban population lives in slums.”

People in slums face such challenges as poor health conditions, lack of sanitation and risk of exposure to pollution, including high carbon emissions.

 

The COVID factor

The Asian Development Bank reports that according to its Outlook 2020 report, tourism-driven economies—including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Palau, Samoa, and Vanuatu—were the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Asia and Pacific region, alone, was expected to lose almost 70 million jobs and 1.1 trillion US dollars in GDP—more than any other region in the world.

 

Gender inequalities persistent

Meanwhile, gender inequalities continue to be persistent in Asia and the Pacific. In particular in the Pacific, women and girls face fewer opportunities for development.

Gender inequalities also intersect and overlap with age, ethnicity, wealth status, and residence, inter alia. Many of these inequalities have been discussed earlier, such as the differential access to maternal health services by less educated, rural and poorer women.

 

Hunger, malnutrition

For its part, the 2020 report: Asia and the Pacific – Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition provides an update on progress towards the 2030 targets at the regional and country level.

While the region continues to work towards ending all forms of malnutrition and achieving Zero Hunger, progress on food security and nutrition has slowed, and the Asia and Pacific region is not on track to achieving 2030 targets, warns the report, elaborated by the UN Food and agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

About 350.6 million people in the Asia and Pacific region are estimated to have been undernourished in 2019, about 51% of the world’s total of undernourished people.

 

Children stunted, wasted

“An estimated 74.5 million children under five years of age were stunted and a total of 31.5 million were wasted in the Asia and Pacific region. The majority of these children in the region live in Southern Asia with 55.9 million stunted and 25.2 million wasted children.”

Estimates predict a 14.3% increase in the prevalence of moderate or severe wasting among children under 5 years of age, equal to an additional 6.7 million children, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Two billion people unable to afford healthy diet

With basic food prices and disposable incomes influencing household decisions on food and dietary intake, they are critical to improve food security and nutrition in the region, the joint report adds.

“However, in the Asia and Pacific region, 1.9 billion people are unable to afford a healthy diet, driven by high prices of fruits, vegetables and dairy products, making it impossible for the poor to achieve healthy diets.”

OKX overtakes global crypto exchanges as 2nd largest, rebrands as cross-platform services provider

VICTORIA, Seychelles, Jan. 18, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — OKX, which recently became the second largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world by spot trading volume, today announced a company–wide rebrand that reflects the dynamism and accelerating adoption of cryptocurrency. Founded in 2017 as a cryptocurrency trading service, OKX has since amassed over 20 million users and expanded its suite of digital asset investing products to include OKX Earn, a tool for earning passive crypto income; an NFT marketplace and decentralized application discovery hub; and most recently, MetaX, OKX's new decentralized mode that features a cross–chain dashboard and self–custody Web 3.0 wallet for storing digital assets, including NFTs.

This shift, as highlighted by the company's name change from OKEx to OKX, reflects the platform's growing number of wealth creation opportunities beyond the exchange, which investors use to trade hundreds of digital assets on spot, margin and derivatives markets.

As part of the move, OKX has declared its mission to be "to remove barriers to wealth creation by giving you access to everything our decentralized future holds." This underscores the platform's ongoing evolution towards decentralization, which includes giving investors the option to self–custody their digital assets. Distinct from other centralized cryptocurrency exchanges, OKX is committed to gradually decreasing the company's level of involvement in user activity, with the ultimate goal of shedding intermediation entirely.

"OKX is moving beyond the standard centralized exchange model to give our customers an end–to–end cryptocurrency experience," said Jay Hao, CEO of OKX. "Most importantly, we're doing this while upholding the core principles of crypto "" decentralization and autonomy. Our goal is to give customers the tools they need to easily and securely earn, transfer, and spend their wealth as they see fit, without intermediation from us. We've dropped the "E' from our name because we're so much more than an exchange, just like crypto is so much more than a speculative asset."

OKX, which lists over 250 digital assets and has long held the #1 rank for cryptocurrency futures trading volumes, recently became the second largest cryptocurrency spot trading platform in the world. In 2021, total trading volume on the platform, including spot and derivatives instruments, grew over 700%, while the number of trades executed on the platform increased over 480%. Staking, savings and DeFi offerings via OKX Earn saw over $5.1 billion deposited by users, and paid out over $314 million in passive income this past year.

To learn more, please visit OKX.com and follow @OKX on Twitter.

About OKX

Founded in 2017, OKX is a world leading cryptocurrency exchange and ecosystem. OKX has innovatively adopted blockchain technology to reshape the financial ecosystem and offers some of the most diverse and sophisticated products, solutions and trading tools on the market. Trusted by more than 20 million people in 180 regions across the globe, OKX's mission is to remove barriers to wealth creation by offering access to everything the decentralized future holds. With its unwavering commitment to innovation, OKX envisions a world of financial inclusion for all through the power of crypto and decentralized finance.

Contact us

Email: media@okx.com
Olivia Capozzalo:
olivia.capozzalo@okx.com
@oliviacap (Telegram)


More Progressive Taxation Needed for Social Progress

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jan 18 2022 – Governments must innovatively develop progressive means to finance the large-scale social spending needed to improve lives and livelihoods, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. More egalitarian tax reforms should enable governments to equitably mobilize desperately needed revenue to advance sustainable development for all.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Fiscal policy challenges
To respond to the pandemic and its economic fallout, massive resource mobilization has been necessary to protect people’s health and livelihoods, stem economic decline and stagnation, and ensure sustainable progress.

Fiscal policy involves governments harnessing and deploying resources. But modes of state financing and spending impact economic inequalities. Monetary policy measures can be supportive, but they cannot replace fiscal efforts.

However, the economic slowdown requires much more state spending, largely financed by sovereign debt, i.e., government borrowing. This has undoubtedly been necessary to deal with the pandemic, but fiscal policy should be consistently countercyclical: expansionary to counter downturns, and conservative in good times.

Rich countries have generally been fiscally bolder by running deficits to spend since the global financial crisis, but especially in response to the pandemic. Massive economic relief and recovery packages have tried to protect incomes and failing businesses, albeit unevenly.

Taxation regressive
Regressive colonial taxes were levied on subject populations, but tax incidence became more progressive after independence in most, though not all post-colonial societies. In the last four decades, most governments have reformed tax policies for the worse, reducing tax revenue shares and shifting the tax burden from the better off to the public at large.

Policy advice from international financial institutions and political pressure from powerful elites and foreign investors have reduced taxation’s progressive aspects. With Trump, laughable arguments such as Arthur Laffer’s curve – without any sound theoretical or empirical bases – are still being invoked to justify regressive tax reforms.

Rich corporations and individuals paid less and less in direct taxes, as the public paid more and more in indirect taxation, typically on consumption. Most countries still tax income, but tax rates on corporate income, high income individuals, property and inheritance have declined in most countries in recent decades.

The wealthy’s assets are mainly held as stocks, shares and real property. Their incomes are mainly from such assets, rather than earned as wages. Taxing excess profits and wealth can raise considerable revenue to finance development policies and measures, besides narrowing gaps between the beneficiaries and others.

Instead, wealth is typically taxed at low rates, while huge loopholes allow such assets to be hidden, typically abroad. Many trillions are hoarded in often secret accounts in tax havens, both off- and on-shore. All this has accelerated wealth concentration and economic inequality.

Making taxation more progressive
Governments mainly get fiscal resources from tax revenue or by borrowing. Taxation is undoubtedly the most sustainable, effective and accountable means for states to raise funds. Progressive taxation and government expenditure can both reduce inequalities, albeit in different ways.

Windfall profit taxes
A few individuals and businesses are reaping huge rewards from the pandemic while most have been hurting. Many billionaires have reportedly become much more affluent, with the ten richest more than doubling their wealth from US$700 billion to US$1500 billion since March 2020!

Windfall taxes at high rates are easily justified. After all, most who have gained much owe their newfound wealth to circumstances largely not of their own making. Windfall incomes or profits during the pandemic can be ascertained by comparing recent with previous profits. Such gains should be heavily taxed for the same reason.

Wealth taxes
Wealth taxation has diminished significantly in recent decades due to successful lobbying by the rich. The introduction or reintroduction and extension of progressive wealth taxation will raise considerable revenue if loopholes can be closed, not only domestically, but also internationally.

Perhaps even more than income taxation, wealth taxes are a progressive means to raise revenue. They also have greater potential to address other inherited privileges and inequalities, including those associated with culture, lineage, ethnicity and gender.

Conditional support
Government spending – including subsidies and relief measures – should not benefit businesses paying taxes abroad or not paying them at all. Many companies resort to tax havens and other loopholes to pay less tax where they operate and profit from.

More progressive systems
Tax systems should get much more from those most liable and able to pay. Concretely, this should include:

    • Introducing or increasing taxes on assets like real property, wealth, inheritance and investment income (‘capital gains’).
    • Raising the rates and progressivity of personal and business income taxes.
    • Shifting relative reliance from indirect taxes – e.g., on value-added or sales or consumption – which tend to be regressive to more progressive direct taxation.
    • Cracking down hard on tax avoidance and evasion – especially by the wealthy, however politically influential.
    • Enhancing international cooperation on taxation to enhance and distribute tax revenue progressively.

Such systemic reforms are essential for progressive fiscal redistribution, e.g., by financing sustainable development in the medium and long-term. Of course, an immediate priority in the near term is financing a forward-looking recovery from the pandemic and its aftermath.

Coordinating fiscal policy
Governments are expected to raise enough revenue to finance the services, goods, facilities and infrastructure they are supposed to provide, i.e., to fulfil public expectations of citizens’ entitlements. The popular presumption is that tax incidence is not only progressive, but has also become increasingly so, although the converse is more likely to be true.

Taxation is widely expected to reduce, if not remedy inequalities. If well-designed for effective implementation and enforcement, the international record suggests this is achievable. In line with the public’s progressive redistribution expectations, the government is expected to be Robin Hood-like, i.e., to take from the rich to give to the poor.

Of course, whether taxation is progressive depends on how it is collected and spent. Hence, tax and spending policies should be considered together. But it is now clear that some pandemic relief packages have mainly benefited influential businesses, with crumbs going to the most needy.

International cooperation is needed to for appropriate tax reforms in this age of financial globalization, and to prevent increasing capital outflows from developing countries. For the time being, minimizing tax evasion depends on equitable and effective international cooperation on terms fair to all, rather than conditions imposed by the rich countries, as has been the case.

 


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Somalia on the Path to Recovery, but Real Challenges Remain

A Somali woman goat-seller in Hargeisa livestock market. Photo: Credit: UNDP / Said Fadhaye

By Adam Abdelmoula
MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan 18 2022 – I arrived in Somalia in September 2019, two decades after having worked here previously. I knew that I was taking up a challenging assignment, but I was also looking forward to seeing Somalia’s progress.

Afflicted by decades of conflict, recurrent climatic shocks, disease outbreaks and poverty, Somalia was often called a ‘failed state.’ The narrative is now changing, and although fragile, Somalia is on a path to stability and the resilience of the Somali people is second to none.

That said, we are not under any illusion: significant challenges remain, and we must work even harder to preserve the gains made to date.

Somalia’s upward trajectory is evident in the construction boom, as one analyst noted — the sound of the hammer is replacing the sound of gunfire in Somalia’s capital.

The UN has been closely supporting the Somali people since the birth of the Republic in 1960. Currently, the UN’s various mandates are implemented through 26  Agencies, Funds and Programmes (both resident and non-resident), one political mission (UNSOM) and one logistical support mission (UNSOS). 

The UN’s commitment towards the Somali cause is articulated in detail in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF 2021-2025), mirroring the priorities of Somalia’s Ninth National Development Plan (NDP-9).

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN marshalled support to help the Somali government respond to the virus outbreak. We continue to support the Somali authorities in seeking to defeat this pandemic and encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Elections are also on-going in Somalia. The UN is supporting the process to ensure that elections are held in a peaceful and transparent manner, while at the same time advocating for 30 per cent women’s quota in the Somali legislature.

While these are encouraging signs of progress, we must not forget Somalia’s long-standing challenges. According to UN’s projections for next year, an estimated 7.7 million Somalis (nearly half of the country’s population) will require humanitarian assistance and protection.

Women and children continue to bear the brunt of Somalia’s complex humanitarian crises, especially among the internally displaced communities. In light of the current serious droughts, the Somali government declared a humanitarian state of emergency on 23 November.

Yet, neither the government nor the humanitarian community has adequate resources to respond. With a few days remaining in the year, the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan which seeks US$1.09 billion remains only 70 per cent funded. Additional resources are urgently needed to prevent the dire humanitarian situation from becoming a catastrophe, so we continue to engage partners on this subject.

In this regard, I undertook missions to Europe in October and to the Gulf in September. Throughout my interactions with partners, I stressed the need for additional funding to address Somalia’s escalating humanitarian crisis and elaborated on how inaction not only risks a reversal of the gains but puts the lives of millions of Somalis in jeopardy.

Through my field visits in Somalia, I have also seen first-hand the grim realities of adverse climate conditions. Somalia is no doubt on the frontline of climate change. The recurrent droughts and floods are driving widespread displacement, rapid urbanization, hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Climate change is also increasingly seen as the driver of conflict and a threat to the country’s security as the struggle over meagre resources deepens divisions. In addition, the loss of traditional livelihoods makes people vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups such as Al-Shabaab.

Somalia is currently experiencing a third consecutive season of below-average rainfall, with nearly 80 per cent of the country experiencing drought conditions, water shortages and livestock deaths. One in five Somalis does not have enough water to cover his/her basic needs.

On a positive note, as part of the efforts to mitigate the climate emergency, the government, with the support of the United Nations, has recently adopted an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution to achieve global climate targets, in which Somalia committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

Somalia’s crises are multifaceted, and they require comprehensive solutions from all stakeholders. It is our collective responsibility to support the efforts of the Somali people to cope with these crises and find lasting solutions that build resilience against future shocks. We must not fail the people we pledged to serve.

Adam Abdelmoula is Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia. He told a press conference in December that the UN and its partners have launched a nearly $1.5 billion Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). Roughly 7.7 million people in the country will need assistance and protection in 2022, a 30 per cent rise in just one year.

 


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Adolescents Left Behind Global AIDS Response – Experts

Elisha Arunga Odoyo, a clinical officer within the PMTCT program at the Homabay County Referral Hospital. There is increasing fear that adolescents will be left behind in the efforts to reduce HIV infections. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

By Joyce Chimbi
Nairobi, Kenya, Jan 18 2022 – The ominous warning came in 2019 through an anonymous message on her mobile phone to stay away from a man she met on social media.

At 18 years and freshly out of high school, *Nicole Kisi was in a relationship with a 45-year-old businessman.

“The message was clear. It said to be careful because of a rumour that the man’s wife died of HIV/Aids. I was shocked. I forwarded the message to my boyfriend, and he told me the person was jealous of him because he is successful,” she tells IPS.

“He looked healthy to me, and I believed that the message came from one of those jealous people.”

One year into the relationship, Kisi was in and out of hospitals. At first, she was treated for severe malaria, but her condition only worsened. Eventually, her HIV positive status was discovered.

As with other sub-Saharan Africa countries, government data shows AIDS is the leading cause of death and morbidity among adolescents and young people in Kenya.

Over the past decade, Africa’s fight to combat HIV has seen new HIV infections reduced by 43 percent and nearly halving AIDS-related deaths.

However, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows the continent is not on track to end AIDS by 2030 because key elimination milestones have not been met.

“There are 18,004 new infections and 2,797 deaths among adolescents 10-19 years annually in Kenya. Overall, 40 percent of new HIV infections in the country are among adolescents and young people 15 to 24 years,” says Damaris Owuor, an HIV activist based in Nairobi.

“The Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV is extremely successful, and so we are greatly concerned about the HIV risk that our young people now face from cross-generational sex.”

More than 90 percent of HIV infections in children result from mother-to-child-transmission, says Elisha Arunga Odoyo, a clinical offer within the PMTCT program at the Homabay County Referral Hospital.

UNAIDS data shows that East and Southern Africa has significantly reduced this risk. Between 2010 and 2018, new HIV infections among children 0 to 14 years declined from 1.1 million to 84,000 across the region.

Odoyo points to Kenya’s Homabay County. Despite having the highest HIV prevalence in Kenya at 20.7 percent, over four times the national prevalence of 4.8 percent, mother-to-child transmission of HIV reduced from 16.8 percent in 2015 to 9.1 percent in 2019.

Owuor says poor sex and reproductive health education and, lack of access to adolescent-friendly reproductive health services is primarily to blame.

Further, UNICEF research shows transactional and age-disparate sex, peer pressure, stigma and discrimination, harmful social and gender norms, and unequal power dynamics contribute significantly to the bulging number of adolescents living with HIV.

The most recent Kenya Demographic and Health Survey shows three out of 10 girls have sex before age 15 and that one in every five girls, 15 and 19 years is either pregnant or already a mother.

Still, Owuor tells IPS that significant strides are needed to address the adolescents’ risk of acquiring HIV. Girls account for six in every seven new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

“My friends and I worried more about getting pregnant than HIV. When you are young, you think about HIV as something that happens to older people. None of my friends has ever bought a condom, but we have bought P2 (morning after pill) so many times for fear of getting pregnant,” she tells IPS.

UNAIDS research shows adolescents and mothers are still disproportionately affected by HIV and left behind the global AIDS response.

Within this context, Owuor cautions that the youth bulge could significantly increase new HIV infections without a targeted approach to increase access to HIV prevention, HIV testing, care and treatment among adolescents and young people.

To achieve the 2030 global target to end AIDS, an analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that by 2025, 95 percent of all people living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of those who know their status are on treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment have a suppressed viral load.

In Africa, 87 percent of people living with HIV knew their status. Of those, 77 percent were on treatment, and 68 percent had a low viral load, according to statistics released in December 2021.

Only nine countries, including Kenya, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, were on track to reach the 95-95-95 fast track target to end AIDS.

Nonetheless, Owuor says while progress has been commendable, the ambitious target will not be achieved if crucial HIV/AIDS elimination milestones among adolescents are missed.

According to Kenya’s ministry of health, access to and uptake of HIV testing and counselling by adolescents is significantly low, as is antiretroviral therapy coverage compared to any other age group of persons living with HIV.

UNICEF research finds while there is increased awareness of HIV in general, adolescents still lack comprehensive knowledge of HIV and condom use remains low in the age group.

“Young people are among the least tested, and without targeted intervention, they also do not adhere to treatment and are often virally unsuppressed. A high viral load, or the amount of HIV in the blood, increases the risk of an adolescent transmitting the virus, so we have to break this cycle,” Owuor says.

Kisi agrees, adding that an adolescent’s journey to accepting a positive HIV result is a long road marred with denial, anger, and bitterness.

“Seeing your friends living a carefree life as you die inside is very painful. The biggest problem is that you lose hope and start to believe that there is no future,” she says.

“Even today, I struggle with accepting my status. I recently joined a peer support group, and I am smiling again. I feel more hopeful than I have ever before.”

 


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