Latin America and the Caribbean: Every day 30 adolescents and young people become infected with HIV for the first time

01 December 2023
Un jóven de perfil con el cielo al fondo
UNICEFBrazil/2018/L. Marques

Panama City, Panama. December 1, 2023.- In Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 30 new cases - 11,000 a year - of infections are registered every day. among adolescents and young people, aged between 10 and 19 years old, highlights the new publication of UNICEF on children with HIV and AIDS.

To a large extent, new infections in this age group are concentrated in adolescents and young men. Between 2010 and 2021, the reduction in new HIV infections was 25 per cent for adolescent women and only 3 per cent among adolescent men.

However, girls, adolescents and women continue to be the most affected by the HIV epidemic due, in part, to gender inequalities that often result in them being powerless to negotiate safe sex, manifested poverty in communities located far from health centers and the lack of access to HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health programs.

The most recent data from UNICEF also estimates that, in Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 34,000 pregnant women require treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

“Although the region has not had significant increases in HIV infections, we are concerned that adolescents and young people contract the virus without knowing it. Less than 25 percent of adolescents and young people have access to an HIV test, while access to sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents is scarce,” said Garry Conille, Regional Director of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Younger populations also face great challenges in the fight against AIDS. According to UNAIDS[1] estimates, during 2023, only 39 percent of boys and girls between 0-14 years old will have received antiretroviral treatment, due to barriers of limited access to services and care. As a consequence, half of HIV-infected children who do not receive timely treatment die before the age of two, while 8 out of 10 die before the age of five.

In parallel, Latin America and the Caribbean is home to one of the most complex migration crises in the world. For this population on the move, high levels of HIV-related stigma, fear of deportation, and limited access to prevention and treatment services increasingly drive them further away from HIV programs. Gaps in service coverage between migrants and the local population are exacerbated when health systems in host countries do not guarantee uninsured people access to health and laboratory services.

UNICEF is committed to advancing the actions necessary to end pediatric AIDS and protect women, children and adolescents and the most vulnerable populations from HIV. To this end, it urges governments to generate and use data for evidence and action on the issue; leverage HIV resources to address gaps; raise awareness among the population, especially adolescents, about the transmission of the virus and its prevention; establish differentiated, free health services, without legal access barriers that facilitate information.


[1] https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/data-book-2023_en.pdf

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Sendai Zea
Communication Specialist (Emergencies)
UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: +507 6821 0843

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