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Young people and Aids

by Spiros Tzelepis, Greece

The number of teenagers infected by HIV is increasing at a threatening rate

The statistics presented by UNICEF show clearly that AIDS is not any more a matter affecting only the developing countries. On the contrary, the danger for teenagers to be infected has been increased even in the industrialized world. Numbers and statistics are a fist in the stomach: more than 7000 young people and 1,600 children under the age of 15 are infected every day worldwide.

More specifically according to UNICEF:

Europe has to face the truth. In total, 37,300 young people between 15-19 years old infected by virus live at this moment all over the continent. Of those, 16,300 are Western Europe citizens, and Spain is the country with the largest number of victims (5,400). In Eastern Europe, the expanding use of drugs has caused an explosion of infections. About 18,000 teenagers have been infected in Ukraine, and in Russia the situation is dramatic.

Among the other industrialized countries USA has the most worrying problem. One out of four new infections affect those who are between ages 13 and 21.

The situation is worse in developing countries where the numbers are shocking: 140,000 children in Ethiopia, 99,000 in Nigeria, 80,000 in South Africa, 68,000 in Tanzania and the nightmare is continuing in other African and Asian countries.

Additionally, children are stricken by AIDS in another way: they are left orphans since women are vulnerable to this virus. About 8,200,000 children under the age of 15 have become orphans worldwide for this reason. In 35 countries the number of orphans has increased 100-400% because of AIDS.

It is important to emphasize here the fact that in Africa during the last decade the social and economic destruction because of AIDS is bigger than the combined disaster caused by all wars in this continent: While the victims of conflicts were 200,000, the victims of AIDS are 2 million (mostly women and children).

The situation described above prioritizes the world's responsibilities: All information relative to this matter has to be available; the educational and health services must be accessible, and they should care about adolescents; young people should be taught about prevention; mothers should be taught how to reduce the infection rate from mothers to children; care and support should be provided to orphans and to children who are subjected to the consequences of the disease; care and support should also be provided to people who are themselves victims of the virus, work or volunteer to help.

To view what young people report about AIDS in their countries click here

Click here to view the HIV/AIDS discussion at Voices of Youth, UNICEF

To visit the UN website about AIDS/HIV click here. To visit the newest UN report on AIDS/HIV click here.

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Reconstruction: July-August-September 2002

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