Young people facing unprecedented health
risks from drug-taking and HIV/AIDS
Users of Drugs Becoming Younger and Choosing Different Drugs
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND, 8 April 2003 - Children and young people in
Asia are facing unprecedented health risks from HIV/AIDS and other diseases
due to the rapid spread of amphetamine-type drug abuse, UNICEF warned
Speaking at the International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related
Harm, Robert Bennoun, UNICEF Regional Advisor on HIV/AIDS, highlighted
an urgent need for more effective and coordinated policies to tackle
the growing problem.
"We are witnessing a human tragedy unfolding at an alarming pace
affecting our children and young people," Mr. Bennoun said.
Worldwide, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for the
majority of new HIV/AIDS infections. Intravenous drug use accounts for
much of the infection. And recent research has shown users of amphetamine-type
substances are increasingly injecting their drugs of choice.
Asia is home to approximately 33 million users of amphetamine-type
substances. Approximately two-thirds live primarily in Thailand, the
Philippines, Japan and Taiwan. Children and young people account for
the majority of new users.
Mr Bennoun said programmes aimed at preventing drug use should be complemented
with those to reduce the risk to young people presently using drugs.
"Incarcerating young people in detention centres or their equivalent
only serves to split families and communities with no evidence of effective
results," he said.
Indeed, the victims of drug abuse by young people are many. Families
witness the cycle of destruction. Communities lose valuable human resources.
Schools and universities lose potential scholars.
But it is the individual young person who loses most, Mr. Bennoun said.
"That short but invaluable window of opportunity - that eagerness
and ability to learn and to excel - is at best interrupted and at worst
destroyed by drug use and closed for good," he said.
UNICEF is developing global, regional and national strategies to deal
with this growing threat to young people, through its Life Skills initiatives,
integrating awareness and prevention programmes both in and out of schools.
Children and young people have a right to information, skills and services
to help protect themselves from the harm associated with drugs. And
UNICEF is calling for an overall increase in investment in education,
community services and parental support to better protect young people
For more information, please contact:
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF
Media, Bangkok, Tel: (662) 356 9407
Allan Dow, UNICEF Media, Chiang
Mai, Tel: (669) 891 5003
Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media, New York, Tel: 212) 326-7593