Adolescents and young people

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission

Paediatric care and treatment

Protection and care of children


Adolescents and young people

Prevention among young people
© UNICEF Cambodia/Nicolas Axelrod

The HIV epidemic breaches boundaries of gender, geography, race, religion and age to impact everyone and threaten families and communities. Risks multiply in urban settings, especially for Cambodia’s young people and those in socially marginalized groups such as drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men.

A 2010 survey on most at risk young people carried out by the Government with UNICEF support, revealed that alcohol use was high among young people – 70 per cent among young women and 91 per cent among young men – and both female and male participants had used illicit drugs. While almost 14 per cent of sexually active females reported they had used drugs, only 0.4 per cent who had never had sex reported using drugs. Moreover, while more than 41 per cent of male and 23 per cent of female participants were sexually active, condom use with boyfriends or girlfriends was alarmingly low – 31 per cent among females and 58 per cent among males. There are strong interactions between all risk behaviours with corresponding low use of health services and HIV prevention programmes.

Although the government has taken important steps forward in containing the spread of HIV, the national prevention programme is fragmented, and the overlapping risks and vulnerabilities affecting most at risk populations need to be urgently addressed. A potential resurgence of the epidemic among most-at-risk-populations, particularly involving adolescents and young people, is raising new concern.

Evolving cultural norms add a new layer of danger for young people. Dating and premarital sex among the nation’s youth have supplanted the traditional practice of arranged marriage. Lack of education and awareness regarding risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases leaves many young couples to engage in unsafe sex.

UNICEF supports the government in improving access to HIVrelated information and services for Cambodia’s young people and conducting outreach to prevent the spread of HIV.

What we do

  • Advocate for and support improved age and sex disaggregation of national data on key populations at higher risk of HIV.
  • Support the government and civil society organizations to expand coverage and quality of age-appropriate information, skills and services to most at risk young people.
  • Support the expansion of targeted HIV communication efforts, including active promotion of information about PMTCT, voluntary, confidential counselling and testing sites and sexually transmitted infection facilities to promote positive health-seeking behaviours among those most at risk.
  • Support the development of innovative interventions with most-at-risk young people, addressing overlapping risk behaviours such as drug use, low levels of condom use, multiple concurrent sex partners and low rates of STI treatment and HIV testing.
  • With UN partners, advocate for a policy environment that enables pragmatic, integrated services for young people most at risk in urban “hotspot” areas.
  • Support local non-government organizations to offer age appropriate harm reduction programmes for young people who use drugs through drop in centre and outreach services, and test programmes designed to reduce HIV-related risks among women who use drugs, a traditionally neglected key population group.
  • Utilize strategic information from the national most at risk young people survey carried out in 2009 to inform the development of Cambodia’s HIV National Strategic Plan III (2011-2015).
  • Support national efforts to move from fragmented project approaches to a programme-based approach, including support to the proposed national prevention working group of government, civil society, UN and development partners.


More young people have correct knowledge of HIV and AIDS as a result of 12 new workplace committees established to provide HIV and AIDS education, reaching 5,114 young female workers through peer education by the end of 2010. An additional 82,423 workers were reached through general health promotion sessions. In tandem, the Inthanou (HIV and AIDS information)hotline has provided young people with ongoing HIV support and information, answering more than 60,000 calls per year with roughly 60 per cent of those calls from young people.

Targeted prevention efforts with young people engaging in high-risk behaviours reached over 8,630 drug users, including 4,599 females, in the Phnom Penh area in 2010. Furthermore, HIV life skills education is now fully integrated into the government’s Child-Friendly Schools programme, reaching 47,530 Grade 5 level young students in 521 primary schools in Prey Veng province. The approach was adopted as a model for the country under the leadership of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and was rolled out to 13 other provinces with support from development partners.





National targets by 2015

• At least 90 per cent of sexually active young people aged 15-24 used a condom when they last had sex.
• At least 60 per cent of young men and women (aged 15-24) correctly identify ways of preventing sexual transmission of HIV and reject major misconceptions about HIV transmission.


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