Young people interpret new UNAIDS data
22 July 2010
A change is happening among young people across the world, especially in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Young people are waiting longer to become sexually active, have fewer multiple partners and are increasingly using condoms among those with multiple partners. As a result, HIV prevalence among young people is dropping in many key countries according to a new analysis by UNAIDS.
Dr Peter Ghys, Chief of Epidemiology and Analysis Division UNAIDS, presented these findings together with the Vienna Youth Force today at the International AIDS Conference.
The study shows that HIV prevalence trends in 16 countries is declining among young people aged 15–24, and according to the study declines are largely due to falling new HIV infections among young people. In 15 out of 21 countries most affected by HIV in the world, a decline of 25% has been noted.
According to Dr Ghys, the results show a good concordance between trend in sexual behaviour and trends in HIV prevalence.
“UNAIDS calls on countries to implement comprehensive set of programmes to reduce the risk of young people; and young people themselves can and must be actors in these changes,” said Dr Ghys.
Young people engaged in the AIDS response in countries which are experiencing this decline were invited to comment on the new findings.
Kuena Diaho, the World Young Women’s Christian Association Lesotho, said that programmes targeting young people need to be shaped in a way so that they are not too heavy. “In Lesotho, we do edutainment; HIV prevention activates through poetry and sport. This way, it’s a little less heavy,” said Diaho.
“We’re a large network of young women’s organizations. We use facebook to share information, and we organize gatherings to talk about sexual and reproductive health education,” said Yvonne Akotho from the Girl scouts in Kenya.
Remmy Shawa, UNAIDS special youth fellow, from Zambia stressed that this new evidence should be used as an advocacy tool to show leaders what happens when young people are placed at the centre of the AIDS response.
Dr Ghys concluded the session noting that these encouraging results are an early return on investments made in HIV prevention. “These investments need to continue and programmes with and for young people need to be scaled up,” said Dr Ghys.