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Prevention of infection among adolescents and young people

A high school student speaks on HIV prevention to peers in Indonesia
A high school student speaks on HIV prevention to peers in Indonesia

Data review in 2008 by the Joint UNICEF-UNAIDS-WHO-ADB AIDS Data Hub showed minimal HIV prevalence among adolescents younger than 18 – from 0 to 0.1% – in East Asia-Pacific.  Surveillance and surveys in various countries showed, however, a slightly higher prevalence range – 0.2– 0.6% among young people ages 20–24 in general.  The exceptions are two of the “HIV hotspots” in East Asia-Pacific: Papua Province of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.  In Papua, HIV prevalence in the 15–24 age group has reached 3%, with 3.3% adolescents having sexual debut at ages 10–14.   In Papua New Guinea, urban HIV prevalence among adolescents ages 15 – 19 is 1.7% for boys and 4.4% for girls; and among those aged 20–24, 2.7% for young men and 6.6% for young women.

• New epidemic trends in the region are revealing a gradual encroachment of HIV among younger populations and increasingly among girls. HIV prevalence in the region indicates a growing feminization of HIV associated with the transmission of HIV from HIV-positive men to their female sexual partners. 

• Evidence indicates that there is still a lack of comprehensive knowledge on HIV transmission among young people aged 15–24 years old in selected countries in Asia and Pacific. Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia have lower levels of comprehensive knowledge compared with other countries. The estimates show that only 5% females and 3% males in Mongolia have comprehensive HIV knowledge. In Papua New Guinea, urban youth have higher knowledge level compared to their rural counterparts.  Generally, males have higher knowledge level than females except in Cambodia and Mongolia. In Timor-Leste, a 2007 national behavioural survey of 1,097 youth aged 15–24 years shows that while 6 in 10 had heard about HIV and AIDS, many still have misconception about its transmission routes. For instance, 20–50% believed that HIV can spread through mosquito or other insect bites, and by sharing clothes and eating with an HIV-infected person. In the Philippines, the levels of comprehensive knowledge about HIV prevention among most-at-risk populations are low, particularly among female sex workers and men who have sex with men.

UNICEF’s response

UNICEF supports a range of prevention activities in our region, including:

• Behavioural change interventions targeting most-at-risk young populations

• Integrating life skills and peer education in formal and non-formal education for young people

• Supporting data analysis and replication of models to strengthen evidence-informed response

• Mainstreaming HIV prevention education along with budget analysis for effective allocation of resources for children, women and young people

• Scaling up community-based approaches to address entrenched cultural values as the root causes of HIV and AIDS

• Intensifying advocacy for wider participation of most-at-risk young people in HIV and AIDS prevention

• Keeping children – especially girls – in school because children who stay in school acquire more skills and confidence

• Supporting initiatives to identify and reach vulnerable and at-risk individuals

• Reducing stigma and discrimination

• Introducing youth-friendly health services

• Mitigating the factors that make people vulnerable to HIV infection: poverty, gender discrimination, human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation.



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