A global report on HIV prevalence in 2009, launched on Wednesday indicated that an estimated 2,500 young people are newly infected with HIV.

Opportunity in Crisis: Preventing HIV from early adolescence to young adulthood, a publication by multiple UN agencies also said while HIV prevalence has declined slightly among young people, young women and adolescent girls face a “disproportionately high risk of infection due to biological vulnerability, social inequality and exclusion.”

UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNFPA, ILO, WHO, and the World Bank have put their heads together to present data on HIV infections among young people and highlight the risks adolescents face as they transition to adulthood.

“For many young people, HIV infection is the result of neglect, exclusion and violations that occur with the knowledge of families, communities, social and political leaders,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

According to the report, people aged 15-24 years accounted for 41 per cent of new infections among adults over the age of 15 years in 2009. In sheer numbers this amounted to an estimated 5 million young people living with HIV in 2009. In the 10-19 year age group, an estimated 2 million adolescents are living with HIV. Most of them live in sub-Saharan Africa; are women, and most are not even aware of their status, the report said. Globally, young women make up more than 60 per cent of all young people living with HIV.

In sub-Saharan Africa that rate jumps to 72 per cent. “Nearly one of every two new adult HIV infections occurs among 15 to 24 year olds. The ILO Recommendation on HIV and AIDS and the World of Work calls for a special focus on young people in national policies and programmes on HIV and AIDS,” Juan Somavia, Director-General, ILO, has said.

The report also indicates that tried and tested prevention methods (among adults) need to be used to protect youngsters from HIV infections. If young people are empowered to protect themselves against HIV, they can lead us to an HIV-free generation, Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, added.

Keywords: HIV-AIDS