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Governments, with assistance from UNAIDS and donors, should, by 2005, ensure that at least 90 per cent, and by 2010 at least 95 per cent, of young men and women aged 15 to 24 have access to the information, education and services necessary to develop the life skills required to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection. Services should include access to preventive methods such as female and male condoms, voluntary esting, counselling and follow-up. Governments should use, as a benchmark indicator, HIV infection rates in persons 15 to 24 years of age, with the goal of ensuring that by 2005 prevalence in this age group is reduced globally, and by 25 per cent in the most affected countries, and that by 2010 prevalence in this age group is reduced globally by 25 per cent.

- Paragraph 70, Key Actions for the further Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, July 1999 (ICPD +5)

More than half of all infected are young people.

Young people (10-24 years of age) account for more than 50% of all HIV infection worldwide. During 1998, more than 8,500 children and young people became infected with HIV each day -- 6 every minute. Also in 1998, 43% of all people over 15 living with HIV/AIDS were women, from 41% the previous year. It is absolutely critical to focus more efforts to prevent further infection among adolescents, and similarly, HIV/AIDS must be an important consideration for any programmes that focus on adolescents.

Information is not enough.

In creating culturally sensitive policies and actions, it is important to look "beyond AIDS" to the larger picture of adolescent health and development. In spite of considerable investment in informing adolescents about HIV/AIDS prevention, there is evidence that adolescents don't always know the facts, and even where they do, knowledge acquisition has not led to large-scale behaviour change among adolescents. If we do not remedy the underlying causes -- including the violations of human rights -- that make young people vulnerable and place them at risk of HIV infection, there is little hope of reversing infection trends. Action in favour of protecting adolescents from AIDS and its impact must focus on protecting their rights -- in efforts to transform the settings in which they live into supportive environments in which they will have more control over their lives, including their HIV/AIDS risks.

Street children in Maputo, Mozambique, tell pedestrians about the risks of unsafe sex and demonstrate the proper use of condoms to prevent HIV infection. The activity was organized by the Baixa Centre, created by Medecins du Monde.

Mulenga, left, 12, acts in a drama on AIDS in which he plays the virus at the Mapete Primary School in a suburb of Kitwe in central Zambia. The school has more than 1,500 students.

Adolescents as the solution.

In combating the HIV epidemic, adolescents themselves are a tremendous resource. Where they have been able to access appropriate knowledge and skills and means, today's adolescents have shown a remarkable propensity to adopt safer behaviours -- more so than previous generations or older adults. Initiatives that combine the strengths of adolescents and adults will be the ones that make a difference. The creativity, charisma, and energy of young people have brought insight and inspiration to programmes that listen to what young people have to say.

UNICEF's support to adolescents.

UNICEF is working with governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the UNAIDS co-sponsors to provide adolescents with information and opportunities to build life skills, as well as access to services including voluntary and confidential counselling and testing (VCCT). UNICEF supports programmes for and with adolescents,which have HIV/AIDS prevention componants in many countries, for example Malawi, Namibia, Romania, Uganda, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, and the countries of the Mekong region. UNICEF is currently undertaking an assessment of its approach to prevention of HIV/AIDS in adolescents.UNICEF supported participation of adolescents in the 11th International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA), held in Lusaka, Zambia from 12-16 September 1999, as well as in the XIII International AIDS Conference, held in Durban, South Africa, from 9-14 July 2000.