Children and HIV and AIDS

The Second Decade of Life

© UNICEF/ HQ06-1500/Pirozzi
Youth leaders stand in a circle, holding hands, to symbolize the slogan ‘We can do it together’, at a child care centre that supports AIDS-affected children in Manila, Philippines.

The facts

• About 2.2 million (6.5%) of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV globally in 2011 were 10–19 years old. 
• Globally, treatment and care responses for adolescents have lagged significantly behind paediatric and adult treatment programmes. 
• Lack of access to testing, treatment and counselling has contributed to the continued rise in AIDS-related deaths among adolescents, a pattern unique to this age group.
• Sexual transmission and injection drug use continue to be the main modes of transmission among adolescents.

What is the response?

A mix of interventions can lower HIV transmission risk, morbidity and mortality among adolescents. These include the use of male and female condoms; voluntary medical male circumcision; prevention of mother-to-child transmission; antiretroviral treatment; targeted approaches for key affected populations  such as needle and syringe exchange programmes and;  communication for social and behavioural change.

HIV prevalence is highest in certain groups of adolescents and yet the same groups of adolescents whose behaviours are often taboos, stigmatized and/or illegal face a multitude of barriers limiting their access and ability to use key interventions for HIV prevention, treatment and care. In order to reduce the HIV epidemic among adolescents, a strategic approach targeting adolescents at greatest risk is therefore essential.

By encouraging and supporting the active involvement and leadership of adolescents, including those living with HIV, in the fight against the epidemic at the local, national and global levels, we can ensure that HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes among adolescents are adolescent-specific and better tailored to their needs and behaviours.

What is UNICEF doing?

UNICEF supports countries to advocate for and impact HIV prevention, treatment, and care for adolescents (10-19 years).  These interventions include access to comprehensive HIV knowledge and sexuality education; condoms and HIV testing and counseling including through Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT); treatment, harm reduction for adolescents who use drugs and; medical male (including early infant) circumcision in countries with high HIV prevalence.

UNICEF prioritizes three groups of adolescents at higher risk of HIV exposure.  These include adolescent girls in generalized epidemics as well as adolescents living with HIV and adolescent key populations (eg. adolescent boys who have sex with other males, adolescents who use drugs and adolescents who are sexually exploited by or engaged in commercial sex) in all epidemic typologies.




By 2015,

  • Reduce new infections among young people by 50%.
  • Reduce transmission of HIV among people who inject drugs by 50% .
  • Achieve universal access to treatment among adolescents living with HIV.

Especially Vulnerable Adolescents

‘Especially vulnerable’ adolescents are often the sexual partners of individuals who inject drugs or individuals involved in sex work. They may be physically or mentally disabled, mobile or displaced, ethnic minorities, out-of-school, or live in rural areas.

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