HIV and Youth
HIV and AIDS and Young People
Young people remain at the centre of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in terms of rates of infection, vulnerability, impact, and potential for change. They have grown up in a world changed by AIDS but many still lack comprehensive and correct knowledge about how to prevent HIV infection. This situation persists even though the world has agreed that young people have the human right to education, information and services that could protect them from harm.
Young people are disproportionately affected in the HIV pandemic. They face the economic and social impact of HIV and AIDS on families, communities, and nations, and they must be at the centre of prevention actions. Where young people are well informed of HIV risks and prevention strategies, they are changing their behaviour in ways that reduces their vulnerability. For example, in several countries, targeted education has led to delayed sexual debut and increased use of condoms resulting in a decrease in HIV prevalence in young people. Yet efforts to increase HIV knowledge among young people remain inadequate.
Why focus on young people?
Young people are at the centre of the global AIDS epidemic. Of the 1.7 billion young people worldwide, 5.4 million are estimated to be living with HIV (2007). About 40 per cent of new HIV infections are among young people. This age group also has the highest rates (over 500,000 infections daily) of sexually transmitted infections excluding HIV. Young people are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection for social, political, cultural, biological, and economic reasons.
Whatever their circumstances, in order to protect themselves against HIV, young people need:
- Youth-friendly health services
- A safe and supportive environment
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