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_Condom Access to Youth

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HIV in Young May Soar by 2010

A study released on July 9, 2002 at the 14th International AIDS Conference estimates that by 2010 youth infection rates may soar by 70%, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.  Currently, a third of the 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS are under 25, and over half of all new infections last year were in children, adolescents and young adults. 

TO GET PROTECTED TONIGHT COSTS US 325,000 EURO

If you consider that the average price of a condom from a vending machine is 1 euro and that there are 325,000 young people in Barcelona, every night the city's youth could spend as much as 325,000 Euros  on condoms. This is an exorbitant figure which smacks more of business than a necessary measure to allow young people to enjoy their sexuality in safe, lower-risk conditions.

The transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases, which affect young people most of all, is continuing to take place with no fully effective policy to promote health and safe and healthy forms of behaviour. Recent figures show a worrying increase in the number of new cases among young people, probably due to the fact that they have not lived through the anguish of the early years of the epidemic and therefore do not take precautionary measures.

The consell de la Joventut de Barcelona (DJB, Barcelona Youth Affairs Council), a joint platform groupiing together 74 youth federations and organisations and a further 450 regular bodies, thinks there should be greater ease of access to preventive methods, and more resources and services to ensure the right to enjoyment of sexuality in safe and healthy condiditons.

It is not enough simply to promote health issues centering on the use of condoms if these messages are not accompanied by policies to make them easily accessible. we therefore consider that condoms should be distributed in places where young people meet, including secondary schools, and furthermore that their cost should be reduced to the symbolic price of fifteen cents of a euro.

We also consider it vital for the Authorities to give greater economic and material support to youth associations and organisations that work to fight HIV/AIDS, by promoting prevention and health education campaigns as a way of putting a stop to futher transmission of diseases.

Consell de la Joventut de Barcelona

 

Youth speaking out 

For the first time at an international HIV/AIDS conference, young people are raising their voices and demanding to be heard as key participants in the fight against HIV and AIDS. 

Young activists from throughout world have mobilised to form the Barcelona Youth Force. The Force aims to increase the visibility and participation of youth in discussions on HIV and AIDS. 

Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 represent one third of the world's population and over 50% of all new HIV infections. Frequently identified as a population at risk for HIV infection, young people are routinely ignored in the design, implementation, and promotion of HIV prevention programmes. 

Young people are gravely under-represented at international forums. Of the 15,000 participants attending Barcelona, there are only 200 young participants. 

The disproportionate representation of youth at international forums limits their ability to participate, learn and exchange ideas on HIV and AIDS prevention. Speaking from the audience at a session on youth interventions, Raj Kishore Mishra from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport with the Government of India, proposed that a youth summit should be held in conjunction with the International HIV/AIDS conference. "They (the youth) have a voice that needs to be heard. Their participation is needed to find solutions that they will accept," he said. 

The participation of youth is vital for HIV prevention. "To include youth in the fight against AIDS is to preserve the future; to exclude us is to jeopardize both the future and the present," said Pamela Ateka, a member of the Barcelona Youth Force from Kenya. 

However, young people cannot do it alone. A recent report from UNAIDS and UNICEF (2002) states that "no strategy to reduce HIV and AIDS can be effective unless the rights of the children and young people are protected and strongly defended." 

Speaking at a press conference on the Barcelona Youth Force, Dr Peter Piot, Executive director of UNAIDS said, "We are taking a new direction, you can count on it", said. "We are working with young people instead of working for young people."

 

Children: Vision for the future

Let me begin with these questions - why should we value children? What is our vision for the world we would like to help build for children? And why have we fallen so short of these deeply held values and grand visions?

First and foremost, children are profoundly dependent on adults - not only for physical and emotional needs, but also in the formation and operating of political policies and public health systems. If parents are for some reason unable to discharge their obligations toward their child, it becomes the responsibility of the community and society to fulfill these obligations.

Despite the almost universal ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children infected and affected with HIV continue to suffer serious discrimination, exploitation and abuse in most countries.

The AIDS epidemic disproportionately affects the young. About 2.7 million of the 40 million people now living with HIV/AIDS are under 15 years old. Children are exposed to the virus in the uterus of the mother, during childbirth or in the early postnatal period. Besides, there are children with medical conditions that require constant blood transfusions, street children who indulge in high-risk behavior and are sexually exploited, sexually abused children and child prostitutes who are very vulnerable to the disease.

Children are also suffering from the indirect consequences of the epidemic. Millions of children have lost their parents to AIDS over the last decade. The sheer scale of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the number of orphans being left in its wake appear to be unprecedented. Struggling to survive on their own, many of these children will end up in institutions or on the streets with little protection and care.

What are the Needs of HIV/AIDS Affected Children?

HIV/AIDS affected children have many of the same needs as other children - good nutrition, exercise, education, love and affection. Beyond these, affected children whether orphaned or not, may have special needs such as counseling, medical treatment, vocational training and encouragement of self-reliance. Legal support may be required in fighting discrimination in schools and medical care settings, also to help with guardianship issues and inheritance disputes. A child's development is dependent on all of these needs and each must be adequately addressed.

What we have observed is that a dramatic difference does exist between rich and poor countries in the length of time a child infected with HIV can survive. Drugs to treat HIV infection and other diseases that occur due to the weakened immune system of the child are often not available in developing countries.

Another area of concern is secrecy, stigma, and isolation. Those who are infected continue to face possible fear, rejection, and prejudice if and when their diagnosis becomes known. There are complex social, medical, psychological, cultural, individual, and family factors surrounding pediatric AIDS. With a large number of perinatally infected children approaching adolescence, issues of adherence, substance use, sexuality, secrecy, peer relationships, vocational training and guidance and planning for the future have become increasingly important.

What should be the national and global response?

The state's responsibility in this regard extends to formulate and execute policies that fulfill the rights of children to information, education, medical treatment and all the services, as well as paying attention to the circumstances that make them especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.

The challenges to this response are extensive and require continuous resources for the high cost of infrastructure and human resources. Funds are needed for the treatment of opportunistic infections in children and the high cost of ARV therapy that extend and improve the quality of life. For this we require regular monitoring, and sustainability of treatment.

Caregivers are needed at all times to ensure appropriate care for the children. Institutions have capacity limitations, while the numbers of children in need are increasing daily.

What we need to understand is that HIV is a problem for the whole society and the solutions must have the involvement, support and efforts of the whole community. Children affected by AIDS need adults (each and every one of us) to voice and protect their rights.

We need to form multiple partnerships at all levels: the civil society, the corporate and the private sector. Co-ordination and co-operation through an intersectoral approach with government commitment at the highest levels.

How can we help to confront the AIDS crisis in Children?

Presently, in the developing countries the greatest barrier and challenge in the fight against paediatric HIV/AIDS is where to find the enormous resources needed? Who should pay the cost of combating AIDS in children? In particular, does the industrialised world have an obligation to help the children of the developing world, and if so, what precisely is owed?

None of these complex questions admits easy answers. But international human-rights standards and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in 1989, can help point a useful direction. This right requires a global response. If this right were fully respected, the AIDS crisis in children could be resolved. Treatment would be available to all, and effective prevention strategies could be widely implemented.

It is an earnest request, for the governments of the industrialised world, the international organizations and the pharmaceutical companies gathered here today is to develop a comprehensive global plan and country specific strategies with timetables and targets for combating AIDS in children. The solidarity and economic commitment of the industrialised world, the international donor agencies and the pharmaceutical companies, will help promote hope and effective leadership in the developing countries.

 Key Correspondent  Health & Development Networks

 



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SEE ALSO >>>: THE YOUTH DECLARATION ..[ from the The Sixth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific ]
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