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Youth Demand Education To Combat HIV/AIDS, Unicef

Youth Demand Education To Combat HIV/AIDS, Unicef Says

Young people at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok told the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today that the epidemic is spiralling out of control because they are being denied such rights as prevention education, testing and treatment.

Claiming their right to be recognized as partners in the global fight against AIDS, 40 conference participants under the age of 25 presented UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy with a list of vital conditions, culled from UNICEF-supported youth consultations in 14 countries across six regions.

The conditions included access to "information and life skills" for HIV prevention, reproductive health, drug prevention and correct condom use. Information must be available and accessible to all young people, while schools must provide HIV education to students and ensure that teachers are adequately trained on the issue.

Those under the age of 25 comprised around one third of the world's 37.8 million people living with HIV/AIDS last year, according to UNICEF. But 44 out of 107 countries omitted AIDS information from their school curricula, a global study found.

Every day, half of all new HIV infections among adults - between 5,000 and 6,000 - are among young people between the ages of 15 and 24, UNICEF noted.

With most young people becoming sexually active in their teens, many still did not know how HIV was transmitted and, therefore, did not believe they were at risk.

Many young people also lacked the skills, support, or means to adopt healthy sexual behaviours, UNICEF said. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 8 per cent of out-of-school youth had access to HIV prevention services. In Latin America and the Caribbean the proportion was 4 per cent, while in Eastern Europe and Central Asia the rate was just 3 per cent.

In countries Uganda, Cambodia and Thailand, programmes that gave priority to educating young people have paid off, with prevalence rates declining by up to a third, UNICEF said.

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