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Lives of Adolescents Worldwide "Transformed" by HIV/AIDS Epidemic, 2003 World Youth Report Says

April 28, 2004

Although young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are better educated and have greater access to information than ever before, HIV/AIDS has taken a "heavy toll" on and "transformed the lives" of the vast majority of the world's 1.1 billion young people, according to the U.N. "World Youth Report 2003" released on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. The 408-page report, which was issued by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, is the first comprehensive U.N. examination of the state of young people throughout the world since 1995 (Gamel, Associated Press, 4/27). According to the report, as many as 7,000 young people are infected with HIV each day (U.N. release, 4/27). Although the HIV prevalence in Central Asia and Eastern Europe is "relatively low," the regions have the fastest growing prevalence in the world, the report says. However, "only a few" developed countries have HIV prevalence rates above 0.5%, according to the report. In the United States, up to 0.27% of young women and 0.57% of young men were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2001, the report says (Associated Press, 4/27).

The report offers several national policy recommendations for curbing the spread of HIV among young people, including the implementation of national policies to protect children and young people from abuse, violence, exploitation, discrimination, trafficking and loss of inheritance, which can make them more susceptible to contracting or being affected by HIV. The report also recommends the implementation of "youth-friendly" health services, education and communication campaigns and calls for improving treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, which can increase the risk of contracting HIV. In addition, the report recommends the establishment of voluntary testing and counseling services and programs that ensure blood safety and supply and distribute condoms and sterile needles. "For those designing prevention programs for youth, it is also very important to remember that whatever the initial point of entry into a population, HIV eventually spreads through sexual transmission," the report says, adding, "Therefore, all young people need information on the risks of sexual transmission and means of protection, even if the region is not currently experiencing a sexually driven epidemic" ("World Youth Report 2003," April 2004).

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