|© UNICEF/ HQ06-1500/Pirozzi|
|Youth leaders stand in a circle, holding hands, to symbolize the slogan ‘We can do it together’, at a child care centre that supports AIDS-affected children in Manila, Philippines.|
Millions of young people around the world are estimated to be living with HIV and AIDS. Their numbers have declined since 2001 -- a change linked to trends toward safer behaviours and practices. But the epidemic continues to have a grave impact upon this age group.
Among the young, HIV is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa where more women than men are living with the virus. The epidemic has increased most rapidly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, tripling between 2000 and 2009. A rapid rise in HIV infections at the turn of the century among young people who inject drugs caused the epidemic in this region to surge.
Because sex and drug use among young people are sensitive subjects, HIV prevention programmes may not include efforts targeted specifically toward the needs of this age group. Stigma and discrimination often leaves those affected by the virus cut off from testing and prevention services.
What is the response?
Young people need have greater access to comprehensive information, services and opportunities to develop essential skills for HIV prevention.
Prevention programmes tailored to the needs and behaviours of young people can help to reverse the spread of HIV – as can comprehensive education and action to end stigma and discrimination.
Preventing HIV transmission among young people is in line with UN Millennium Development Goals 3 and 4, which call for equal opportunities for girls and women and for reducing child mortality.
Especially Vulnerable Adolescents
‘Especially vulnerable’ adolescents are often the sexual partners of individuals who inject drugs or individuals involved in sex work. They may be physically or mentally disabled, mobile or displaced, ethnic minorities, out-of-school, or live in rural areas.