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Despite high knowledge levels about HIV/AIDS, Liberian youth still at risk

Monrovia, LIBERIA, 25 October 2005 - In a new finding, a UNICEF Liberia-commissioned study says many young Liberians have a high-level of knowledge about HIV/AIDS and its transmission but continue to engage in risky behaviour. The study also reveals that many young people harbor high levels of misconception and stigma towards people living with the virus. 

 “Ninety-three percent of the 1,458 young people surveyed in the study said they know HIV can be spread through sexual intercourse and 91 percent know that HIV can be spread through an injection with an unsterilized needle,” said UNICEF Liberia Representative Angela Kearney. “This is really encouraging data. However, some survey respondents harbor misconceptions about how the virus is spread. Focus group discussions also showed that these young people hold deep-seated negative attitudes about people living with HIV/AIDS.

 “We also found that despite high knowledge rates, the sexual practices of too many Liberian youth include high rates of unprotected sex. This contradicton is profoundly disturbing and requires all of us to redouble our efforts to effectively communicate with young people about the very real threat of HIV/AIDS,” Kearney said.

UNICEF and its partners have called for unparalleled political and social commitment to raise the financial and human resources necessary to fight HIV/AIDS in Liberia. “Through the global Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign, which is being launched today by UNICEF and UNAIDS in New York, the fight against HIV/AIDS must be central to all of our work and we must work even harder to convince young people that they need to protect themselves,” said Kearney.

The trends, which highlight the danger HIV/AIDS continues to pose to the survival of young people in Liberia, are part of a study entitled, “Knowledge About HIV/AIDS, Attitude Towards Persons Living with HIV, and Sexual Practices Among Young Persons in Liberia.”

Produced by UNICEF and NARDA, the New African Research and Development Agency, the report is the first significant step towards providing data about HIV/AIDS and how it relates to the behavior, knowledge, and attitudes of young people in this West African nation.
The 75-page study, which was conducted from January-May 2005, has two components: a cross-sectional survey of 1,458 respondents and 42 focus group discussions that were held in eight of Liberia’s 15 counties. The young people surveyed in the report were aged 10-24.

 “It is clear that young people in Liberia are receiving the messages about the spread of HIV/AIDS and its prevention, but they are also not applying the lessons in the choices they make,” said Mardea Martin the Information Education and Communication Coordinator of the National AIDS and STI Control Program (NACP).

The NACP is leading the development of a National HIV/AIDS Communication Strategy for Liberia which aims to increase the level of comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV/AIDS among the general population, and address issues of stigma towards people living with HIV.

The study’s key findings and recommendations are listed in the appendix.

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Patrick Slavin, UNICEF Liberia, Cell # 06 538298,
pslavin@unicef.org

MacArthur S. Hill, UNICEF Liberia, Cell # 06 516182,
mhill@unicef.org

 


 

 

 

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