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  1. #1

    The face of HIV/AIDS growing younger

    The face of HIV/AIDS growing younger
    Julie Abelsohn. July, 2005
    editor@hospitalnews.com

    HIV/AIDS continues to cause unspeakable human suffering. Recent UNAIDS estimates show that roughly 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. While the epidemic’s evolution varies across regions, an alarming trend seems to be emerging globally – HIV/AIDS is preying increasingly on the young and most vulnerable and particularly girls. An estimated 11.8 million people aged 15-24 are living with HIV/AIDS and half of all new infections worldwide are occurring among young people. Most youth are ill equipped to deal with the growing risks of infection. In sub-Saharan Africa, almost half of 15 to 29- year-old girls surveyed did not know that a healthy-looking person could still have HIV/AIDS. In Haiti, nearly two-thirds of sexually active young women aged 15 to 19 did not believe they are at risk of infection. In Mozambique, 74 per cent of young men and 62 per cent of young women of the same age group could not name a single method of protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS.

    Perhaps we can excuse these alarming statistics because most young people in developing countries have little if any access to health-care services or accurate information about sex and HIV/AIDS at the time in their lives when they need it the most – when the vast majority are becoming sexually active. Thankfully that is not the case here in North America or is it? According to research from The Media Project, half of all new HIV infections in the United States happen among people under 25. Of sexually experienced teens ages 15 to 17 only 27% have been tested for HIV; only 48% know “for sure” where to get tested. This population, which is growing at a staggering rate, has it’s own inherent challenges. Finding health-care professionals with expertise in both HIV and adolescent health is difficult. Often HIV-positive youth need other supports such as help with basics – food, shelter and transportation – in addition to facing enormous psychological stress.

    Although here in Canada youth currently constitute a small proportion of the total number of reported HIV/AIDS cases, it would be ludicrous to ignore the global trends. However, statistics can’t begin to drive home this message or prepare you for the fact that this could possibly happen to you, or to someone that you know and love. When it does – it’s devastating.

    Recently, the daughter of a close family friend discovered that she was HIV positive. At the time she was a lovely and bright yet “ordinary” young woman full of hope and optimism venturing forth into the world with her first apartment and her first serious love affair. Sadly the love affair would end badly, but unlike a broken heart, the consequences of this relationship would be much harder to heal. The young woman had had unprotected sex with an HIV-positive man, who has subsequently been charged with aggravated assault and accused of engaging, or attempting to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse with at least three women without revealing his HIV-positive status.

    The sobering reality of this story is that it could have happened to anyone – my daughter, your daughter, anyone’s sister or best friend. Although street-involved youth, and youth who inject drugs are particularly vulnerable to HIV, so are ordinary kids from ordinary homes also vulnerable. Youth in general are vulnerable to HIV infection as a result of many factors including risky sexual behaviour and a perception that HIV is not a threat to them.
    “They’re the most at risk because like me they think they’re invincible,” says Sarah (not her real name) a youth living with HIV who volunteers to speak with high-school students about HIV/AIDS. When asked why she thinks that youth feel that they are not particularly vulnerable to HIV, Sarah explains that it’s not just a youth perception that they are not at risk, it’s a message that’s conveyed to them from society and even from the medical establishment. “HIV is just not considered a threat for our demographic — I’ve even had friends who’ve gone in to get tested just to be safe and had their doctors turn them away because they say, ‘You’re not at risk – don’t worry.’ ”

    It’s clear that a wide range of prevention activities need to be implemented to stem this growing tide of HIV transmission among youth. According to Youth and HIV.com. an organization intended to serve as a knowledge resource and advocacy tool on the issue of young people and HIV/AIDS,

    “Equipping youth with the tools they need to make safe and healthy decisions, sound knowledge and skills, access to services and protective familial social and legal environment must be the backbone of the global response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.”

    Evidence shows that where HIV transmission has been reduced, the greatest reductions are often seen among young people. For instance, In Brazil, thanks to widespread information campaigns and prevention services, half the young men having sex for the first time in 1999 used a condom, compared to fewer than four per cent in 1986. Condom sales rocketed from 70 million in 1993 to 320 million in 1999. Ultimately, the message has to be clear and consistent. Sarah ends her presentation to high-school students emphasizing that it’s not that they shouldn’t trust anyone, it’s about taking responsibility for your actions and protecting yourself. To emphasize her point, she ends with this punch: “This could happen to you because, I am you.”

    Canada's only youth driven HIV/AIDS agency
    Canadian HIV/AIDS Information Centre is the largest information centre on HIV/AIDS in Canada
    HIV and AIDS Among Youth in Canada

  2. #2

    The face of HIV/AIDS growing younger

    The face of HIV/AIDS growing younger
    Julie Abelsohn. July, 2005
    editor@hospitalnews.com

    HIV/AIDS continues to cause unspeakable human suffering. Recent UNAIDS estimates show that roughly 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. While the epidemic’s evolution varies across regions, an alarming trend seems to be emerging globally – HIV/AIDS is preying increasingly on the young and most vulnerable and particularly girls. An estimated 11.8 million people aged 15-24 are living with HIV/AIDS and half of all new infections worldwide are occurring among young people. Most youth are ill equipped to deal with the growing risks of infection. In sub-Saharan Africa, almost half of 15 to 29- year-old girls surveyed did not know that a healthy-looking person could still have HIV/AIDS. In Haiti, nearly two-thirds of sexually active young women aged 15 to 19 did not believe they are at risk of infection. In Mozambique, 74 per cent of young men and 62 per cent of young women of the same age group could not name a single method of protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS.

    Perhaps we can excuse these alarming statistics because most young people in developing countries have little if any access to health-care services or accurate information about sex and HIV/AIDS at the time in their lives when they need it the most – when the vast majority are becoming sexually active. Thankfully that is not the case here in North America or is it? According to research from The Media Project, half of all new HIV infections in the United States happen among people under 25. Of sexually experienced teens ages 15 to 17 only 27% have been tested for HIV; only 48% know “for sure” where to get tested. This population, which is growing at a staggering rate, has it’s own inherent challenges. Finding health-care professionals with expertise in both HIV and adolescent health is difficult. Often HIV-positive youth need other supports such as help with basics – food, shelter and transportation – in addition to facing enormous psychological stress.

    Although here in Canada youth currently constitute a small proportion of the total number of reported HIV/AIDS cases, it would be ludicrous to ignore the global trends. However, statistics can’t begin to drive home this message or prepare you for the fact that this could possibly happen to you, or to someone that you know and love. When it does – it’s devastating.

    Recently, the daughter of a close family friend discovered that she was HIV positive. At the time she was a lovely and bright yet “ordinary” young woman full of hope and optimism venturing forth into the world with her first apartment and her first serious love affair. Sadly the love affair would end badly, but unlike a broken heart, the consequences of this relationship would be much harder to heal. The young woman had had unprotected sex with an HIV-positive man, who has subsequently been charged with aggravated assault and accused of engaging, or attempting to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse with at least three women without revealing his HIV-positive status.

    The sobering reality of this story is that it could have happened to anyone – my daughter, your daughter, anyone’s sister or best friend. Although street-involved youth, and youth who inject drugs are particularly vulnerable to HIV, so are ordinary kids from ordinary homes also vulnerable. Youth in general are vulnerable to HIV infection as a result of many factors including risky sexual behaviour and a perception that HIV is not a threat to them.
    “They’re the most at risk because like me they think they’re invincible,” says Sarah (not her real name) a youth living with HIV who volunteers to speak with high-school students about HIV/AIDS. When asked why she thinks that youth feel that they are not particularly vulnerable to HIV, Sarah explains that it’s not just a youth perception that they are not at risk, it’s a message that’s conveyed to them from society and even from the medical establishment. “HIV is just not considered a threat for our demographic — I’ve even had friends who’ve gone in to get tested just to be safe and had their doctors turn them away because they say, ‘You’re not at risk – don’t worry.’ ”

    It’s clear that a wide range of prevention activities need to be implemented to stem this growing tide of HIV transmission among youth. According to Youth and HIV.com. an organization intended to serve as a knowledge resource and advocacy tool on the issue of young people and HIV/AIDS,

    “Equipping youth with the tools they need to make safe and healthy decisions, sound knowledge and skills, access to services and protective familial social and legal environment must be the backbone of the global response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.”

    Evidence shows that where HIV transmission has been reduced, the greatest reductions are often seen among young people. For instance, In Brazil, thanks to widespread information campaigns and prevention services, half the young men having sex for the first time in 1999 used a condom, compared to fewer than four per cent in 1986. Condom sales rocketed from 70 million in 1993 to 320 million in 1999. Ultimately, the message has to be clear and consistent. Sarah ends her presentation to high-school students emphasizing that it’s not that they shouldn’t trust anyone, it’s about taking responsibility for your actions and protecting yourself. To emphasize her point, she ends with this punch: “This could happen to you because, I am you.”

    Canada's only youth driven HIV/AIDS agency
    Canadian HIV/AIDS Information Centre is the largest information centre on HIV/AIDS in Canada
    HIV and AIDS Among Youth in Canada

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