Deaths among 10- to 19-year-olds increase by 50 per cent
Millions of young people are at risk of HIV infection because governments are not providing appropriate health services, according to the World Health Organisation.
The failure to adequately support 10- to 19-year-olds has resulted in a 50 per cent increase in reported Aids-related deaths among this age group between 2005 and 2012, bucking the global trend among the general population that saw deaths fall by 30 per cent.
Most of the new infections occur in young women, who are up to three times more likely to get infected than young men — due in part to their lower social status in some countries.
The WHO said the increase was largely down to the failure of governments to prioritise adolescents in national HIV plans or provide teen-friendly testing services and counselling.
Another, more specific, reason for the high number of deaths is because many young people who were born HIV-positive either did not receive antiretroviral treatment straight away, or, if they did, failed to receive adequate follow-up care but managed to survive into adolescence.
In the runup to World Aids Day on 1 December, the WHO on Monday issued new guidelines on HIV support and care for adolescents.
“Adolescents face difficult and often confusing emotional and social pressures as they grow from children into adults,” said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO’s HIV and Aids department.
“Adolescents need health services and support, tailored to their needs. They are less likely than adults to be tested for HIV, and often need more support than adults to help them maintain care and to stick to treatment.”
The agency found that while there was a good level of knowledge on the benefits of using a condom, there was still reluctance on the part of young people to ask partners to be tested. They did not want such a request to infer their partner had a promiscuous past.
Young men were also less likely to seek testing or services than women. Many young people also avoid seeking services because the consent of a parent or guardian was required.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013