HIV: new hope for adolescents
BAKU/GENEVA, 29 November 2013 — As the number of people infected with HIV continues to climb in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, five countries are paving the way to overcome a major hurdle: making it easier for adolescents to talk about HIV and take a test to find out their HIV status.
Today host Azerbaijan with Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine concluded a three -day conference to advocate for adolescent testing ahead of World’s AIDS Day next week. The conference coincided with the first ever European HIV Testing Week, which also ended this Friday.
In Baku, partners and experts met to review progress, assess new evidence, strategies and innovations to raise awareness among adolescents about HIV risks and to make it easier for adolescents to seek and obtain an HIV test without running into barriers and obstacles. The meeting, stemming from an initiative supported by the European Union and UNICEF to scale up testing and counseling of adolescents and young people who are at highest risk of HIV infection, highlighted the value of involving this age group to create an adolescent-centered approach to the services that work for people of their age. The importance of maintaining the principles of confidentiality and the voluntary nature of testing and working within existing ethical and public health frameworks was highlighted.
In Europe, at least one in three of the 2.3 million people living with HIV are unaware that they are HIV positive. Many of the new infections derive from people living with HIV who are not yet diagnosed and therefore unaware of the possible risk of transmission. It’s a crucial step forward for the region, which is seeing some of the steepest increases in the spread of HIV worldwide.
According to UNICEF’s ‘Toward an AIDS-Free Generation Children and AIDS: Sixth Stocktaking Report, 2013’ launched today, more than 2 million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years are living with HIV. The failure to support effective and acceptable HIV services for adolescents has resulted in a 50 per cent increase in reported AIDS-related deaths in this group compared with the 30 per cent decline seen in the general population from 2005 to 2012.
Barriers make it difficult for people to access testing and counseling services, particularly among the most marginalized: male adolescents who have sex with men, injecting drug users, adolescents exploited for commercial sex and adolescents living and working on the streets. These barriers include the need for parental consent, unavailability of free testing and counseling, low awareness of the need for testing and low perception of the risks of infection.
“We continue to speak up for all children and adolescents
including the most marginalized
As an effort to support and unite community organizations as well as helping them to forge stronger cooperation with governments, the conference participants:
1) examined fresh data on adolescent attitudes and practices around HIV testing and counseling from on-line surveys among over 3,300 adolescent and youth;
2) assessed efforts to build a more enabling environment for HIV testing and counseling, including through revisions to legislation, strengthening government and civil society collaboration, capacity building of service providers to increase access to and seeking of HIV testing and counseling services for adolescents and provide care and support to adolescents living with HIV;
3) reviewed innovative computer- and internet-based tools that aim to build skills of outreach workers and care providers to motivate adolescents to know their HIV status.
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