Addressing HIV

Leading the HIV prevention revolution

Young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution. Across the world, and especially in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, young people are waiting longer to become sexually active, having fewer partners and increasingly using condoms. HIV prevalence among young people has fallen in 16 of the 21 countries most affected by HIV. While this is good news, we cannot be complacent. Young people remain disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for 41% of all new infections among 15-49 year-olds (UNAIDS, 2010). Young women between the ages of 15-19 are particularly vulnerable to HIV because of gender inequalities, sexual violence, early marriage, intergenerational relationships and more limited access to education. 

Too many 15-24 year-olds do not know how to prevent HIV infections and hold misconceptions about how the virus is transmitted: As at 2010, only 34% of young people held comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV. Furthermore, use of condoms among young people having sex with multiple partners is far from universal, especially among young women. In 41% of UNGASS country reports reviewed in 2010, less than 30% of young women with more than one sexual partner used a condom at last sex.

UNFPA works toward an HIV-free generation by promoting human rights and gender equality through four core areas

  • Providing young people with information to acquire knowledge;
  • Providing young people with opportunities to develop life skills;
  • Providing young people with access to sexual and reproductive health services and commodities for  pregnancy and HIV prevention and treatment, care and support; and
  • Creating a safe and supportive environment that does not discriminate or hinder young people’s access to services

As a member of UNAIDS, UNFPA is a co-convener with UNICEF on the priority area on empowering young people to protect themselves from HIV, including leadership of the Interagency Task Team on HIV/AIDS and Young People. While UNFPA works in many countries to prevent HIV among young people, within the new UNAIDS Strategy 2011-2015, UNFPA and co-sponsors aim to reduce new HIV infections among young people (15-24 years) by 30% by 2015 in 17 focus countries (Brazil, Malawi, Vietnam, Cote d’Ivoire, Lesotho, Swaziland, Ghana, Ukraine, Namibia, South Africa, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana), with the goal to achieve three bold results by 2015:

1) Ensuring at least 80% of young people in and out of school have comprehensive knowledge of HIV;
2) Doubling the use of condoms during their last sexual intercourse and
3) Doubling young people’s use of HIV testing and counselling services.

To achieve the above results, UNFPA leads efforts  to promote comprehensive, evidence-based prevention strategies for young people, including the use of male and female condoms; comprehensive sexuality education; strategic use of mass media; the provision of youth-friendly health services for the prevention, treatment and care of HIV; and harm reduction programmes for injecting drug use. With its expertise in sexual and reproductive health, UNFPA also plays a lead role in ensuring that young people are dually protected against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unintended pregnancies.

UNFPA is also committed to strengthening the availability and use of strategic information on young people and HIV; establishing strong civil society collaboration; and forging genuine partnerships with young people to be fully involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of HIV programmes that affect their lives.



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