1999 World AIDS Campaign
Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), February 1999
young people - the under-25
- According to estimates by UNAIDS, the Joint United
Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS, more than 3 million children
and young people worldwide became infected with HIV in 1998.
This included almost 590 000 children under 15 and over 2.5
million 15-24 year olds.
- During 1998, more than 8500 children and young people
became infected with HIV each day - six
0-14 years old
- By the end of 1998 UNAIDS estimates that there were
already over 33.4 million people worldwide
living with HIV, of whom 43% are women. In some of the
worst-affected countries, 2 or more out of 5 pregnant women
attending antenatal clinics in urban areas are HIV-infected.
- Among HIV-positive women who breastfeed and do not
receive a preventive regimen of antiretroviral pills, the
chances that their child will become infected through
mother-to-child transmission range from 25% to 35%.
- Altogether, according to UNAIDS and WHO estimates, more
than 4 million children under age 15
have been infected with HIV since the epidemic began.
- More than 90% of them were infants born to HIV-positive
mothers who acquired the virus before or during birth or
- Hundreds of thousands were children under 15 who became
infected through blood transfusions or
- In 1998 alone, 590 000 children under the age of 15
became infected with HIV. This brought the total number of
children in this age group living with the virus to 1.2
million at the end of 1998.
- Because HIV infection often progresses quickly to AIDS
in children, most of the children under 15 who have been
infected since the start of the epidemic have developed AIDS,
and most of these have died.
- Of the 2.5 million people who died of AIDS in 1998, 510
000 were children under the age of 15.
- The US Bureau of the Census estimates that by the year
2010, if the spread of HIV is not contained, AIDS may increase
infant mortality by as much as 75% and mortality in children
under 5 by more than 100% in those regions most affected by
- UNAIDS estimates that, by the end of 1997, 8.2 million
children had lost their mother to AIDS before they turned 15.
- Anestimated 6.2 million orphans under age 15 were alive
at the end of 1997, struggling to survive after the death of
their mother or of both parents from AIDS. More than 95% of
these children live in Africa south of the Sahara.
children orphaned by AIDS are concentrated in those countries
most affected by the epidemic. For example, data provided by
the US Bureau of the Census and the World Bank indicate that
1.7 million Ugandan children have become orphans as a result
of AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic.
- According to UNICEF, children orphaned by AIDS are the
largest and fastest growing group of
children in difficult circumstances in Zimbabwe. UNAIDS
and WHO estimate that by 1997,
approximately 7% of the country's children under 15 had
lost their mothers to AIDS.
- Even children who are neither infected with HIV nor
orphaned by AIDS are affected by the
socioeconomic fallout from the epidemic in hard-hit
communities and countries. An AIDSCAP study estimated that, by
the year 2005, Kenya's Gross Domestic product (GDP) will be
14.5% smaller than it would have been had AIDS never occurred.
Per capita income is projected to be reduced by 10%.
- The vulnerability of girls to HIV infection is
exacerbated by denial or neglect of their recognized
human rights - including gender discrimination -
resulting in inadequate control over their exposure
to sexual HIV transmission and poor access to
- Commercial sexual exploitation and domestic sexual
abuse of children are contributing risk factors for HIV
infection among children.
- Figures reported to the 1996 World Congress Against
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
indicated that worldwide more than 1 million children
enter the sex trade every year.
- An unknown number of children worldwide are at risk of
sexual abuse by relatives, other members of the child's
community or strangers.
- Estimates suggest
that there are as many as 100 million children and adolescents
in the world who are working or living on the street, often in
violent and dangerous situations.
- The physical and mental abuse of children may increase
the likelihood of their engaging in risk-taking sexual
behaviour and thus increasing their vulnerability to HIV.
- Around one-third of the 33 million people living with
HIV in the world at the end of 1998 are young people aged
- Around half of all new HIV infections occur in the same
age range. This is an age when most people start their sexual
- In 1998, nearly 3 million young people became infected
with the virus - that is more than five young men and women
every minute of the day, every day of the year.
- A recent study in Malawi measured yearly HIV incidence
at nearly 6 percent in teenage women, as
compared with less than one percent in women over 35.
- In the developing countries, which saw over 95% of the
world's new HIV infections in 1998, there are hundreds of
millions of 15-24 year-olds - an enormous part of the
- Where they have been able to access appropriate
knowledge, skills and means, today's young people
have shown a remarkable propensity to adopt safer
behaviours - more so than previous generations
or older adults.
- In northern Thailand, half as many 21-year-old men
visited sex workers in 1995 as had done so four
years earlier. Those young men who visited sex workers
were far more likely to use condoms - 93%in
1995 versus 61% of the same age in 1991.
- In Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, condom use among
people under 25 is noticeably higher than
among older groups.
- In Chile, a 1996 study showed that condom use is
highest among 15-18 year-olds, and similar patterns have been
found in Brazil and Mexico.
- In Senegal, two out of five women under 25 and
two-thirds of men used condoms with non-regular partners in
1997, compared with less than 5% at the start of the decade.
- In many countries in both the industrialized and
developing world, 15-19 year olds are increasingly abstaining
from sex in the face of HIV. In Uganda, for example, by 1995
over 50% of the men and 46% of the women in that age-group
said they had never had sex, more than a three-quarters
increase over the 1989 figures for either sex.
- In Western Europe, some 60% of young people are now
using condoms the very first time they ever have sex, a
six-fold increase since the early 1990s.
- HIV prevention works, particularly with young people.
Among Thai male 21-year-olds, there were half as many STD
infections and a third fewer HIV infections in 1995 than had
been recorded four years earlier.
- In Uganda, HIV infections among pregnant teenagers aged
15-19 have substantially decreased in several urban clinics,
in some cases falling to under 5% from over 20% at the start
of the decade.
- Neighbouring Tanzania has seen similar decreases in HIV
incidence among womenunder 25. In both rural and urban
settings in one area of the country, HIV infection in young
women has fallen by almost two-thirds.
- In societies where the epidemic is heterosexually
driven, young women are more exposed to the risk of HIV
infection than young men for both physiological and societal
reasons. This is especially true on women who are dependent on
sexual relationships with men for socio-economic survival.
- Girls are also exposed to HIV earlier than boys. A
preliminary analysis of multi-site studies sponsored by UNAIDS
and its partners shows that in western Kenya, nearly 1 girl in
4 aged 15-19 is already living with HIV, compared with 1 boy
- In Zambia in the same age group 16%of girls
versus just 1%of boys are HIV-infected. In Rwanda, rates for
boys and girls are similar through the teens, but in their
early 20s females are significantly more likely to be infected
- 14% of women versus 9% of men.
- The picture is somewhat different where
injecting drug use is the driving force for HIV transmission.
In many developing countries, drug injectors are
- In Eastern Europe, HIV infection rates are
growing fastest among injecting drug users, most of whom are
- In Myanmar, over 60%of teenage drug
injectors are infected with HIV - indeed teenagers are the
only group of drug injectors among whom HIV prevalence has
continued to climb steadily since the early 1990s.
- In Brazil, drug injection and sex between
mencontribute to higher infection rates in young menthan in
young women. Almost three-quarters of non-paediatric AIDS
cases in Brazilians under 25 have
occured in males.
- In Ethiopia, condom use has been promoted
as a prevention strategy among young people. As a result,
condoms have become more available and less costly, and their
use has become a socially accepted norm among young people.
Condom sales increased from 3 million pieces in 1991 to 20
million pieces in 1996.
- In Thailand, private-sector involvement in
condom accessibility and social marketing contributed to the
doubling of condom use among young people in the mid-1990s. A
1997 national survey in the general population showed that 87%
of men aged 20-24 used condoms every time with brothel sex
- A UNAIDS review of over 50 studies has
shown that sexual health education programmes do not encourage
sexual experimentation. When quality criteria are met, such
programmes actually help to delay the age of first
intercourse. They also reduce sexually transmitted diseases
and unwanted pregnancy in adolescents who are sexually active.
- Successful school AIDS education programmes
that include family life and life skills education and sexual
health education exist, for example, in parts of India,
Zimbabwe and the Caribbean.
- Given a chance, young people have proven
through their direct engagement that they have a great deal to
contribute to a community response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
They are a force for change.