HIV/AIDS and Adolescents
By far, the fastest spread of HIV/AIDS among young people is in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 8.6 million youth (67 per cent of them female) are living with HIV/AIDS. In Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, an estimated 60 per cent of boys now 15 years old will eventually become infected.(27)
HIV is also spreading rapidly in South Asia, where an estimated 1.1 million youth are infected (62 per cent female). In parts of South India, the epidemic has crossed over from sex workers and injecting drug users to the general population.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 560,000 youth are living with HIV/AIDS (31 per cent female). A few Caribbean countries have some of the most serious epidemics outside Africa, with at least 2 per cent of young women infected. In Latin America the virus has spread mainly among men who are sexually active with other men, but it is moving beyond that population to young women.
East and South-east Asia have an estimated 740,000 youth living with HIV/AIDS, roughly half of whom are female. Given China’s large population and rising incidence of HIV, the number of youth with HIV/AIDS in this region is likely to grow considerably. Epidemics once concentrated among injecting drug users and commercial sex workers have now spread to the general population in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. (Though Thailand has effectively reduced prevalence.)
Infection rates are rising rapidly in Eastern and Central Europe. In 2001, an estimated 430,000 youth were living with HIV/AIDS (35 per cent female). The epidemic is growing in this region due mainly to intravenous drug use, particularly among young men, but also to trafficking of women and sex work.
There were an estimated 160,000 infected youth (41 per cent female) in the Middle East and North Africa in 2001. Although surveillance systems in this region have improved in the past few years, this estimate may be low. While there is little sexual contact among unmarried young people, the region needs to be vigilant and raise awareness. There is evidence of rising STI rates—a precursor for increasing HIV infections. High rates of injecting drug use in some areas also indicate the likely spread of HIV.
In North America and Western Europe, the epidemic is fairly contained, except among the poor and minorities, drug users and sex workers, particularly young women. Still, complacency, particularly among young people, may be undoing the gains made in slowing the spread of HIV.