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Young People and HIV

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HIV/AIDS The facts

Twenty years into the AIDS epidemic, the rates of HIV prevalence among young people are alarmingly high, and appear to be rising. UNAIDS and WHO have determined that 30 per cent of people currently living with HIV/AIDS are under the age of 24. In fact, in many countries, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 constitute the majority of new HIV infections. The map below illustrates the regional distribution of the 10.3 million young men and women infected at the end of 1999.

11.8 Million young people aged 15-24 - Living with HIV/AIDSMaps do not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any territory or in the delination of any frontiers -Source UNAIDS/UNICEF 2001
Adolescence - Window of Opportunity

Every minute six young people below the age of 25 become infected with HIV. Around the world,as of end 2001, 11.8 million young people are living with HIV, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.

The vast majority of young people learn about sexual matters and HIV through their friends.

In eight African countries where at least 15% of adults are currently infected with HIV, around a third of today's 15-year-olds will die of AIDS.

Unsafe sexual activity and an increase in intravenous drug use are paving the way for an AIDS crisis in Eastern Europe, South Asia and the Caribbean. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, for example, the estimated number of people living with HIV climbed from 150,000 at the end of 1997 to 1 million by the end of 2001. Most of the new infections are among injecting drug users.

Girls are especially vulnerable

Girls are two to four times more likely to become infected than boys for biological reasons. Persistant gender discrimination, poverty and inequality also place adolescent girls at an especially high risk for contracting HIV.

Data; Masaka District Annual Survey - Uganda 1997
Studies in countries with generalized AIDS epidemics show that women become infected at younger ages than men, usually by older men. Men's infections occur at later ages. To change behaviour and prevent infections, therefore, intervention programmes should focus on adolescents.


HIV-infection rates in teenage girls in some urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa are more than five times higher than those among teenage boys.

The Caribbean: HIV rates are five times higher in girls than in boys aged 15-19 in Trinidad and Tobago. At one surveillance center for pregnant women in Jamaica, girls in their late teens had almost twice the prevalence rate of older women.

Girls are more likely than boys to be uninformed about HIV. Girls are also more likely than boys to be enticed into having sex with someone older,wealthier or more powerful, such as school teachers,employers or older 'sugar daddies' who offer them money or pay for school fees in return for sex, heightening their risk of exposure to the virus.

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