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International News

UNICEF Works With Guinea Bissau Youth Groups to Fight AIDS

April 29, 2009

UNICEF is tackling the spread of HIV/AIDS in Guinea Bissau by working with youth groups to raise awareness of the disease. Enhancing prevention is crucial in a country where only about 16 percent of youth say they know how to protect themselves from HIV, said Silvia Luciani, country coordinator for UNICEF.

"Prevention of HIV among young people is of critical importance in [Guinea Bissau], where a large part of the population is young, and where sexual relations start very early and they are not protected," said Luciani. "So in many, many cases young people engage in sexual relations without even knowing what are the prevention measures."

UNICEF's strategy is to work with youth groups, since these organizations are often more effective at getting messages out to young people who might otherwise ignore more traditional public health campaigns. "They are very active and very interested to do something for themselves and for the fellow young people," Luciani said.

A key challenge is the country's dire poverty. Guinea Bissau has the second-lowest rating on the UN's Human Development Index measuring life expectancy, education, and standard of living. Increasing poverty means more girls are drawn into prostitution, exploited by men for as little as $1, Luciani noted.

Another hurdle is the country's political instability. Last month, both the president and the army chief of staff were murdered.

"The government needs to be much more engaged in ensuring that all of the young people have access to the information, the skills, and the services to prevent HIV. This is a major challenge for this country. But it is a challenge that needs to be addressed immediately before it is too late," Luciani said.

Back to other news for April 2009

Adapted from:
Voice of America News
04.24.2009; Scott Stearns

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More News on HIV/AIDS in Guinea-Bissau