Youth and HIV/AIDS
An estimated 11.8 million young people (aged 15–24) are living with HIV today. Each day, nearly 6,000 more are infected, as well as 2,000 infants who contract the virus from their mothers during pregnancy or birth, or through breastfeeding. And 14 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
But young people are not just at the centre of the crisis. They — you — are crucial to a lasting solution. In areas where HIV infection rates are levelling off or actually declining, it’s mainly because young men and women are changing their behaviour. And young people are also taking a lead in passing on the vital information that prompts such change.
Vulnerable young people
For a variety of reasons – cultural, political and economic – some young people are more vulnerable to infection than others. For example, girls are at higher risk in some parts of the world. This is partly because girls are more likely to be pressured into having sex and less likely to be able to control with whom, when and how they have sex. Also, social attitudes to sex and sex education may make it more difficult for girls to get the information they need to protect themselves from the virus.
Other young people are likely to be infected with HIV because they inject illegal drugs (sharing unsterilized needles is a common route for infection). Or they may be more at risk because they are poor or homeless, which makes them more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, for example by being forced to have sex for money. Children orphaned by AIDS are themselves particularly vulnerable to infection because they often have no one to care for or protect them, or any means of earning a living.
Call to action
We all have a part to play in fighting the HIV and AIDS crisis. First and foremost we must make sure everyone has accurate information about how the virus is spread and how they can protect themselves. Making sure everyone can develop the skills and self-confidence to keep safe in difficult situations is also critical, as is having access to services, such as counselling, treatment and HIV testing. And all adults – guardians and official leaders – must do everything they can to make sure our communities are safe and young people are supported.
These pages aim to give you the information you need to keep yourself safe and to help in the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Teach, reach youth about HIV/AIDS
Katie is hanging around after everyone has left the youth group meeting. With a frightened look, she asks to talk with you. She tells you she just found out she is HIV positive. How do you respond?
Katie is part of an alarming trend in the United States. The statistics are disturbing.
For many, HIV/AIDS is not an easy, comfortable topic. It requires open and honest discussion about sexuality, drug use, being ostracized, fear, death, grief and more. It also requires that parents and leaders face the reality that there may be young people in their congregation who participate in at-risk behaviors. Some of the congregation’s young people may already be HIV positive or know someone who is. Consider these tips in talking about the disease in your safe, faith-filled environment:
HIV is NOT transmitted by:
HIV is transmitted by:
Encourage young people to help others through education, advocacy and care giving:
Other Web Sites
Information in this resource was obtained from Brokenness to Wholeness curriculum, American Association for World Health, and Mother’s Voices.