Of the 33.4 million people living with HIV around the world, 4.9 million are between the ages of 15 and 24. In 2008, young people from 15 years and older accounted for 40 per cent of all new global HIV infections. In the past, studies have been targeted at adults. However, it is now clear that programs and resources must be focused on youth.
The UN Programme on Youth hosted a briefing session today on “Youth and HIV/AIDS” at the UN Headquarters in New York, including a panel discussion on the role of youth in HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and management, in addition to the impact of HIV/AIDS on young people.
Pierre Robert, Adolescence and Health Specialist of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted that in the top nine countries with HIV/AIDS, all located in South Africa, at least one in 20 young people are living with HIV. This is a huge disparity compared to the next ten countries on the list, in which two to three out of every 100 young people are affected by HIV.
The panelists emphasized the importance targeting youth, particularly young women as they account for a large portion of the epidemic. The panelists also stressed the need to create programs to help prevention and the spread of HIV.
Allen Frimpong of Youth R.I.S.E., encouraged young people to take a role in preventing HIV through transparency, accountability and participation. He discussed the importance of building relationships and including the opinions of young people in policy making and implementation.
Most importantly, he highlighted the need to increase involvement and prioritizing the needs of young people and he referenced the fact that there are only three youth representatives at the 54th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.
Jean Claude Dusingize, former volunteer of the Global Young Coalition on HIV/AIDS, discussed the value of creating sustainable strategies and programs, stating “each community, each group needs its way on HIV policies and program implementations.” He continued, “young people need someone they trust, someone they can talk to.”