AIDS a key issue for international youth dialogue
20 August 2010
HIV and sexual and reproductive health has been identified as a central theme for discussion as part of the International Year of Youth, a United Nations (UN)-led initiative launched this month by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Under the overarching theme of “dialogue and mutual understanding,” the Year of Youth aims to promote peace, respect for human rights and solidarity across generations through activities that highlight issues of increasing importance for youth—including HIV, the environment, hunger and employment. Young people are encouraged to participate in local and global efforts to achieve internationally-agreed targets, such as the Millennium Development Goals.
With young people aged 15-24 accounting for 40% of all new HIV infections, increased youth engagement in the AIDS response is critical. Empowering young people to protect themselves from HIV is one of ten UNAIDS priority areas, with the overall goal of a 30% reduction in new HIV infections by 2015. UNAIDS has committed to achieving three ‘bold results’ in at least nine of the 17 high-burden countries. These include:
- ensuring at least 80% of young people in and out of school have comprehensive knowledge of HIV;
- doubling young people’s use of condoms;
- doubling young people’s use of HIV testing and counselling services.
Youth in Asia-Pacific call for open dialogue on HIV
At the Asia-Pacific launch of the Year of Youth in Bangkok, Thailand, young people from across the region underlined limited access to sex education and HIV-related information as key areas of concern. During the launch event—a roundtable dialogue between youth representatives, heads of UN agencies and government officials, moderated by UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for China and television presenter James Chau—young participants highlighted the need for parents and others to “get outside their comfort zones” in order to better reach youth with information on sex and HIV.
“My parents have talked to me openly about sex and HIV for as long as I can remember,” said Benya, a 14-year-old high school student from Bangkok. “I think this helps me make good choices in my life.”
Young participants emphasized that greater access to evidence-based information on HIV and sexual and reproductive health, through both traditional and new media channels, was critical for youth empowerment on HIV-related issues.
Steve Kraus, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, underscored that evidence shows that when young people are given accurate information about sex and HIV, they choose to have sex later, with fewer partners and increased use of condoms.
“Young people are leading the prevention revolution. Recent data show that HIV prevalence has dropped by 25% among youth in 15 of the highest-burden countries. We have to continue this momentum,” said Mr Kraus. “The International Year of Youth provides a key opportunity for us to massively increase our emphasis on bringing young people to the table and ensuring their voices are heard in the important debates on HIV.”
For the Asia-Pacific region—and across the world—the Year of Youth launches will be followed by a series of targeted activities to showcase youth contributions to development, encourage dialogue and highlight the benefits and significance of youth participation in all aspects of society.