At the hub of the
10.3 million people aged 15-24 are living with HIV/AIDS, and half of
all new infectionsover 7,000 dailyare
occurring among young people.
is hardest hit. It is home to over 70% of young people living with HIV/AIDS
and to 90% of the AIDS orphans in the world (12.1 million children).
are vulnerable to HIV because of risky sexual behaviour, substance use
and their lack of access to HIV information and prevention services.
the epidemic remains pervasive among young people, many of whom do not
know how to protect themselves from HIV. In Mozambique, for example,
74% of girls and 62% of boys aged 15-19 are unaware of any way to protect
themselves. Half of the teenage girls in sub-Saharan Africa do not realize
that a healthy-looking person can be living with HIV/AIDS.
young people (including street children, refugees and migrants) may
be at particular risk because of stigma, their exposure to unprotected
sex (in exchange for food, protection or money) and the use of illicit
Young people and
people do not believe that HIV is a threat to them. Almost two-thirds
of sexually active girls aged 15-19 in Haiti do not believe they run
the risk of HIV infection; more than half of their Zimbabwean counterparts
share that perception.
become sexually active early, without the benefit of the necessary information,
skills and services to protect themselves from HIV. Programmes targeting
young people often fail to acknowledge such early sexual activity.
are often unplanned and sometimes coerced. Of the estimated 2 million
sex workers in India, 20% are under the age of 15 and nearly 50% are
under 18. Forced sex can injure the genital tract, thereby increasing
the odds of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation (including incest, rape and
forced prostitution) are especially vulnerable to HIV infection. In
Cambodia, 30% of sex workers aged 13-19 are infected with HIV.
exclusion and a lack of information put young men who have sex with
men at additional risk. Among self-identified homosexual young men in
Peru, 40% have reported recent unprotected anal intercourse.
sexual health education programmes help delay the onset of sexual activity
and protect sexually active young people from HIV, other sexually transmitted
infections and pregnancy.
discourage young people from using health services. They include a lack
of privacy and confidentiality, insensitive staff, threatening environments,
an inability to afford services, and the fact that services often do
not cater to unaccompanied minors or are restricted to married adults.
social and economic factors make young women especially vulnerable to
HIV, occasionally leading to infection soon after the women have become
sexually active. A study in Zambia found that, within a year of becoming
sexually active, 18% of young women surveyed were HIV-positive.
In some of
the worst affected countries, adolescent girls are being infected at
a rate five-to-six times higher than are boys. There is growing evidence
that older men are responsible for a large share of these infections.
Young people and
features prominently in the epidemic, notably in the many countries
where injecting drug users are forced to live on the margins of society
and lack access to HIV/AIDS information and prevention programmes. Many
of these users are young.
The use of
alcohol and other drugs is associated with unsafe sexual behaviour.
HIV prevention strategies need to address this issue.
involving young people
are key to controlling HIV/AIDS. They have the right to knowledge and
skills that reduce their vulnerability and enable them to protect themselves
and each other against the epidemic. Experiences show that HIV/AIDS
programmes that respect and involve young people, while being sensitive
to their cultures, are more likely to succeed.
better communication and social mobilization efforts are needed to broaden
HIV/AIDS awareness and promote healthy lifestyles. They also need to
defuse the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS.
need a safe and supportive environment. This requires sensitive attitudes,
policies and legislation at family, community and national levels. Sturdy
relationships with caring parents or other adult role models are essential.
effective education systems are important. Yet, in many countries, those
systems are in disarray. They need to be repaired and boosted with innovative
peer education programmes among young drug users should be expanded.
They can include steps to improve access to information, prevention
commodities (such as condoms and sterile injecting equipment for those
who inject), as well as HIV/AIDS prevention and care services.
Targets for success
have pledged to cut HIV prevalence among 15 to 24-year-olds by a quarter
in the most affected countries by 2005, and globally by 2010.
They have also
undertaken to ensure that, by 2005, at least 90% of young people have
access to information, education and services to reduce their vulnerability
to HIV infection. Such services should include access to preventive
methods such as female and male condoms, voluntary testing, counselling
and follow-up support.
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