Limited knowledge of HIV/AIDS risk and prevention among high risk groups increases AIDS menace in Armenia
The assessment conducted by a multi-disciplinary team with support from the National Centre for AIDS Prevention, UNICEF and UNAIDS provides valuable data on HIV/AIDS-related knowledge levels, vulnerability and needs of adolescents and young people from vulnerable and high risk groups such as children deprived of parental care, children in conflict with law, injecting drug users, other drug users, commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men.
“This assessment is important because it provides evidence that those most at risk of contracting the disease have only limited knowledge of their own vulnerability and what actions they need to take to reduce their risk of contracting the disease. UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett said in his opening remarks.
This assessment makes clear that communications campaigns, and other activities targeting those at highest risk of contracting the disease, are essential to check the spread of HIV/AIDS in this country.
The “Rapid Assessment and Response of HIV/AIDS among Especially Vulnerable Young People in the Republic of Armenia” found that only 30 per cent of young commercial sex workers, 40 per cent of young injecting drug users and under 50 per cent of young men who have sex with other men have a clear understanding of how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and what they need to do to protect themselves.
The assessment also found that only 12 per cent of adolescents between the ages of 10-24 living in institutions have sufficient knowledge on how HIV/AIDS is prevented. A similar level of knowledge was observed among children in conflict with the law.
Results and recommendations made in the Report on Rapid Assessment were used in development of the Country Specific Strategic Plan on HIV prevention among Especially Vulnerable Young People and Most At-Risk Adolescents adopted by the Armenia Country Coordination Commission on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria Issues (CCM). The recommendations were also incorporated into the National Programme on the Response to HIV Epidemic in the Republic of Armenia for 2007-2011, submitted to the Government of Armenia for final endorsement.
Among the specific activities recommended in the assessment are the following:
• Raise awareness of HIV and prevention, not only by informing young people but also by involving them in awareness-raising campaigns and peer education;
• Ensure that schools address HIV more openly, including in life skills education;
• Ensure a strong gender focus and targeted policies to reach those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds;
• Build accessible and youth-friendly health care and advisory services;
• Foster more inclusive attitudes towards those infected/affected and those at high risk.
“The lesson from other countries has been that unless early and effective action is taken to address the spread of the disease among high risk groups, the disease will spread unchecked into the mainstream population,” Yett said. “The time to act is now.”
Emil Sahakyan, Communications Officer
Tel.: (374 10) 52 35 46, 56 64 97