WHO: Youth left out in anti-HIV programs

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Sunday, July 20, 2014


DESPITE accounting for a bigger portion of new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases, members of the youth sector are allegedly not being protected from the disease.

This was one of the observations of the World Health Organization (WHO) during the ongoing International Aids Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

“In many countries, these young key populations are not even spoken about, much less provided for. But changes that happen in adolescence can add complications to already complicated lives,” said Alice Armstrong of the WHO HIV department.

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“There is a dearth of reliable health data about young people but it is recognized that discrimination and stigma, violence and alienation from families and friends are factors that can lead them, willingly or not, to engage in behaviors, such as unprotected sex and the sharing of needles and syringes, that put them at risk of HIV,” she added.

More than five million people globally aged 15 to 24 are living with HIV, according to WHO.

In 2012, those aged 15 to 24 years accounted for 39 percent of all new infections worldwide.

A total of 4,837 persons aged 15 to 24 contracted the virus from 1984 to May 2014, representing 25.6 percent of the total number of HIV cases reported in the country, which is 18,836, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Dr. Rachel Baggaley, also of the WHO HIV department, said health service providers should not deny minors of means that will help them avoid getting HIV.

“For young men who have sex with men, for example, this is a period when they are often really at risk of HIV… It’s not helpful to tell a young person to ‘go away, we can’t give you a condom now, come back when you are 18’,” said Baggaley.

The WHO official said providing HIV protection to all vulnerable sectors, regardless of age, will be important in curbing the rise in cases.

“If we can support them through this time to develop the knowledge and skills to protect themselves from HIV, this could have an important impact,” said Baggaley. (HDT/Sunnex)

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