Young people are driving the AIDS epidemic

BARCELONA – The impact of the epidemic on young people is expected to grow, particularly in hard hit countries that already have young populations.

This is according to a report by the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation: ‘€œThe Tip of the Iceberg ‘€“ the Global Impact of HIV/AIDS on Youth’€ released at the World AIDS Conference.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the youngest regions in the world with over half its population estimated to be under the age of 18.

The report revealed that over half of new infections were among young people (under 24 years) with nearly a third of people living with HIV/AIDS between the ages of 15 and 24.

Most young people living with HIV/AIDS are found in sub-Saharan Africa and most are women.

Looking into the future the report projected that 21,5% of young people (15 to 24) would be living with AIDS globally by 2010. Currently the figure stands at about 13,5%.

But despite the current and projected impact of the epidemic on young people there is evidence that prevention efforts have already succeeded in reducing HIV transmission in some areas and for certain populations.

In South Africa early indications are that loveLife, the world’€™s largest HIV prevention programme for young people, is having an impact.

Dr David Harrison who heads up loveLife said they realized early on that they were competing with brands such as Nike, Diesel and Guess when trying to catch the attention of youngsters.

‘€œWe wanted loveLife to be a new lifestyle brand for young South Africans,’€ he said.

The goal of loveLife is to halve the rate of new HIV infections among 15 to 20 year olds in the next five years.

Head of South Africa’€™s HIV/AIDS programme, Dr Nono Simelela said it was comforting to recognize that in the last three years there had been no increase in HIV prevalence in the under 20 year age group.

‘€œIt appears as if young people are heeding the message,’€ she said. She said surveys showed that condom use among teenagers in South Africa was also high.

‘€œWe need to stop seeing young people are potential HIV infections, but as potential leaders or presidents.

‘€œWe need to ensure that the democracy we won through the blood of young people is ploughed back into their future.’€

The South African government is on the main funders of loveLife together with the Kaiser Foundation and the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation.

Access a related report on: Behaviour change – the cornerstone of HIV prevention by David Harrison.


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