Teen vulnerability

Teen vulnerability

The Unicef’s 2013 Report on Children and AIDS provides reason for some satisfaction with achievements made under ongoing programmes, even as it draws attention to the rising vulnerability of teenagers to HIV/AIDS.

The report says that the number of infants newly infected with HIV fell from 540,000 in 2005 to 260,000 in 2012. It means that roughly 850,000 infants have been saved from the dreaded disease in this period. Advances in medical treatment have played an important role in this achievement. Preventing HIV among infants has been most spectacular in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana witnessed a 76 per cent dip in new cases of infection among infants in the 2009-12 period. The Unicef report provides worrying details about the HIV/AIDS scenario among teens. AIDS-related deaths among adolescents in the 10 to 19 year age group witnessed a 50 per cent growth between 2005 and 2012.

And girls account for two-thirds of the new HIV infections. There is a geographic concentration too with six countries accounting for half of the 2.1 million children living with HIV. India figures among these six countries.

Statistics in the report provide pointers to how the world must proceed further in its fight against HIV/AIDS. That just 34 per cent of children with HIV compared with 64 per cent adults in low- and middle-income countries receive anti-retroviral treatment indicates the need to focus on children. What is more, girls and women must become the focus of the HIV/AIDS campaign especially if we are to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation in the coming years.

Besides increasing investment in high-impact interventions to prevent infections, there is a need to ensure treatment becomes affordable and thus accessible to all. An important focus of the campaign must be awareness creation regarding the causes and prevention of HIV infection. Several myths surrounding HIV/AIDS persist.

It remains one of the most stigmatised diseases with many still believing that it is contracted by mere touch, even proximity to people suffering from it.  Fear of social ostracism inhibits people from going public on their infection. Besides, people must be made aware that even if HIV/AIDS cannot be cured yet, safe sex and preventing vertical transmission i.e. from mother to child is possible and treatment slows its progression. A lot has been achieved but much remains to be done in the battle against the disease.

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