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Limited knowledge of HIV risk and prevention among high risk groups increases AIDS menace in Armenia

UNICEF study launched today reveals that Armenian adolescents and young people from vulnerable and high-risk groups have insufficient knowledge of how to protect themselves from contracting HIV.
© UNICEF Armenia/2007/Emil Sahakyan
Left to right: Dr. Arshak Papoyan, Head of the Department of Epidemiological Surveillance, Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative in Armenia, Dr.Samvel Grigoryan, Director of the National Centre for AIDS Prevention, Renate Ehmer, UNAIDS Country Coordinator.

YEREVAN, 30 January - Adolescents and young people aged 10-24 from vulnerable and higher risk groups in Armenia have insufficient levels of knowledge to protect themselves against the spread of HIV infection, according to a study launched today.
 
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 and AIDS-related knowledge levels and the vulnerability and needs of adolescents and young people from groups at higher risk such as children who are deprived of parental care, children in conflict with the law, injecting drug users, other drug users, commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men.

"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,” - UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett

“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 at the launch.

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 and 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 10-19 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.

The results and recommendations made in the report on Rapid Assessment were used in the 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 which has been submitted to the Government of Armenia for final endorsement.

Among the specific activities recommended in the assessment are the following:

  • Raise awareness of HIV 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. 

“Although the prevalence of the disease in Armenia remains relatively low, 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.”

For more information please contact:

Emil Sahakyan, Information & Communications APO, UNICEF Armenia
Tel: (374-10) 523-546/580-174/543-809
Email: esahakyan@unicef.org

 

 

 

 

Related links

HIV and AIDS resources

UNICEF is a cosponsor of UNAIDS

Unite for Children, Unite against Aids
Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional report (June 2006)
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