Youth and HIV/AIDS: can we avoid catastrophe?

Youth and HIV/AIDS: can we avoid catastrophe?

Planning for youth-focused HIV prevention

To stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic from becoming a catastrophe, prevention strategies must do much more to reach young people right away. Of the over 60 million people who have been infected with HIV in the past 20 years, about half became infected between the ages of 15 and 24. Today, nearly 12 million young people are living with HIV/AIDS. Young women are several times more likely than young men to be infected with HIV. In nearly 20 African countries 5% or more of women ages 15 to 24 are infected. Such statistics underscore the urgent need to address HIV/AIDS among youth.

The report calls for comprehensive strategies to include:

  • increased political and financial support for AIDS prevention among youth in developing countries. While 95% of people with HIV infection live in developing countries, 95% of all AIDS prevention funding is spent in industrialized countries. Moreover, a larger share of that spending should focus on youth
  • increased education and communication. Some adults still think that sex education encourages sexual experimentation. In fact, some school-based programs have delayed the onset of sexual activity and increased condom use without increasing sexual activity
  • more youth-friendly services. Social policies and health care providers' behavior often reflect intolerance and discrimination against youth, limiting access to health information and care and making young people reluctant to seek information, guidance, and care
  • more attention to the root causes of youth's vulnerability. Programs must address cultural practices and the economic dependence that put young people--especially young women-at high risk of HIV infection

[adapted from authors]

  1. How good is this research?

    Assessing the quality of research can be a tricky business. This blog from our editor offers some tools and tips.