Young people ‘driving down’ rates of HIV

YOUNG people in Africa are leading a “revolution” in HIV prevention and driving down rates of the disease by having safer sex and fewer sexual partners, the United Nations AIDS programme said yesterday.

The prevalence of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS is falling among young people in 16 of the 25 countries most affected by the disease, a study by UNAIDS found, with many of them on track to hit a 25% reduction target in HIV/AIDS rates in 15- to 24-year-olds by the end of the year.

“Young people have shown that they can be agents of change in the prevention revolution,” the report said.

It called on governments worldwide to learn from this progress and provide comprehensive programmes for sexual health education, access to HIV testing and wide availability of prevention methods such as condoms.

An estimated five million young people around the world aged between 15 and 24 are living with HIV, the often fatal and incurable virus that causes AIDS. Nearly 80% of those people live in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to UNAIDS, an estimated 900,000 new infections occurred among young people in 2008 and the vast majority of those cases were in young women in Africa.

In a study, UNAIDS found that in 16 of the 25 worst affected countries, rates of HIV had been falling among young people, with some of the most dramatic declines seen in Kenya, where there was a 60% change between 2000 and 2005.


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