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Angolan youth combat HIV/AIDS in their meeting places

HIV/AIDS Sensitization Campaign for young people between 13 and 18 years old in their meeting points offers an opportunity for about 8 million young people to improve preventive attitudes

LUANDA, 8 June 2006 – About 1,000 children and adolescents from 13 to 18 years old were enthusiastically crying “Enjoy Life with Safety” during a rally to launch a National AIDS Awareness Campaign for Youth on 7 June at the Independence Square in Luanda.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports, in partnership with the National Institute for Fighting Against AIDS, UNICEF and local NGOs are involved in reaching youth in discos, bars, car wash facilities, churches, juvenile and sports centres, local video facilities and other places were youth get together.  These places are meeting points for youth and will be targeted by the campaign.

“This 7th of June is a great day for all of us who came here to the Independence Square, because we are going to learn more about AIDS,” affirmed Rosita, a 16-year old student.  “We are happy because this event at this place means also that we have to be more responsible and make informed judgments about sex to live longer. Angola needs all of us healthy and happy for its development.  Also I like to see my favourite Angolan singer who is here today, Yannic.  I just love his music” she added.

Angola’s population is markedly young, where 70 per cent of the population is less than 24 years old.  Surveys consistently show that despite extensive information campaigns, the level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS prevention remains limited and the conversion into sustained behavioural change is low.  A study conducted in 2003, Sexual Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of Urban Youth in Angola, revealed that 43 per cent of young people start their sexual life by 13 years of age and a significant number of youth had occasional unprotected sex.  Additional factors that increase the risk of contracting HIV include: sexual activity across generations and multiple partners (23 per cent of youth reported having two or more partners in the last three months), low condom use (55 per cent of young Angolans used a condom with their last casual partner, 37 per cent with a non-married ‘permanent partner’ and 19 per cent with a ‘marital partner’), and low perception of personal risk (only 9 per cent of youth classified themselves as being at high risk of contracting HIV).

“In the face of this evidence, we should use the campaign to mobilize once again all youth leaders at all levels, including young musicians and artists, journalists, athletes, members of youth organizations and others with the objective of disseminating knowledge about the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, all over the country,” said the Vice-Minister of Youth and Sports, Gonçalves Muandumba in the opening ceremony.

The campaign also will include activists with 18 NGOs, who will be deployed to youth meeting points in all 18 provinces of the country with information materials already designed and printed.

They will use videos, music, artistic activities and radio and TV programmes to launch appeals to young people in a creative manner.

“It is important to prioritize actions towards young people, especially on prevention.  Youth represent a window of opportunity to revert the HIV incidence rates, especially if they have the knowledge to make educated choices before they assume a risky behaviour,” stated Dr. Ducelina Serrano, Director of the National AIDS Institute.

At this moment, when the country is glued to the screen due to Angola´s participation at the FIFA World Cup, some key players like Mantorras, Akwá, Lebo Lebo and Jamba offered to promote important messages on HIV/AIDS prevention. In addition, musicians such us Yannic, Yuri da Cunha Dog Murras and Kelly Silva are contributing.  A popular weekly TV programme ‘Estrelas ao Placo’ is also opening its doors to the young activists.

“If the world learns something about AIDS, it is that young people have the power to change the situation because they are flexible, energetic and absorb new ideas more easily than other people.  Thus, it is important to involve them fully in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Akhil Iyer, UNICEF Angola’s Senior Programme Officer.

The HIV/AIDS sensitization campaign to reach youth at their meeting points offers an opportunity for about 8 million young people to dialogue and emphasize the theme of HIV/AIDS, to exchange information, to improve preventive attitudes based on informed knowledge about the disease and to promote solidarity in attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS.

Since 5 September 2005, a nationwide initiative engaging all 600,000 secondary school students began Angola’s response to global campaign Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS, which is supported by UNICEF.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information please contact:
José Luís Mendonça, UNICEF Information Officer, Tel. +244 912 653 013, jlmendonca@unicef.org




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