July 13th, 2010
11:50 AM ET

Report: Youth leading Africa's war on AIDS

Activists gather at the American consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, last month. The nation has one of the highest AIDS rates.

AIDS is losing its stranglehold on a key demographic in Africa, according to a U.N. report released Tuesday, and it appears the driving force behind the trend is common sense.

People between the ages of 15 and 24 are among the hardest-hit by sexually transmitted infections, and 80 percent (4 million) of young HIV patients live in sub-Saharan Africa, UNAIDS reports.

Polls show that AIDS is among the foremost concerns of citizens living in many African countries, and if the U.N. data are accurate, teens and young adults in these countries have decided to reverse the trend.

“Young people are leading the prevention revolution by taking definitive action to protect themselves,” the report states. “The impact: HIV prevalence among young people is falling in 16 of the 25 countries most affected by AIDS.”

Read the report (PDF)

Among the nations leading the way – and raising hopes that they can slash their countries' 1994 AIDS rates among young people – are Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Kenya, according to the data, had one of the most significant decreases with rates in urban areas dropping from 14.2 percent in 2000 to 5.4 percent in 2005.

Several behaviors are cited as the reason for the drop. In 13 countries, young people are waiting longer to have sex. Another 13 countries reported that young folks had fewer sexual partners in the last year.

And while condom use by one gender or the other is up in several countries, Cameroon, Tanzania and Uganda reported increased condom use among men and women.

“For the first time, the report shows that reductions in HIV prevalence among young people have coincided with a change in sexual behaviors patterns among people,” according to the report, which calls declining HIV infections among young people “a breakthrough essential for breaking the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic.”

Read the report (PDF)

Of the 25 countries that comprise the bulk, or 85 percent, of the world’s AIDS sufferers, 13 are located in Africa, according to another report by UNAIDS. It says young women – who are twice as likely to contract HIV than young men – are particularly vulnerable in sub-Saharan African.

While China, India, South Africa and Nigeria require the most resources to fight AIDS, the two African nations face the greatest domestic shortfalls in what they can devote to the battle.

The UNAIDS report, which coincides with the Obama administration’s unveiling of its domestic AIDS strategy, calls for empowering young people to continue the fight against AIDS. It also calls for rights-based health education and increased testing and prevention efforts.

“Young people have shown that they can be change agents in the prevention revolution,” the report concludes.

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Filed under: Africa • AIDS • Kenya • South Africa
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Clark1b

    I am 100% effective in stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS. I am truly monogomous and never have I used illicit drugs or been drunk. If each individual did the same ... we would stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic within one generation.

    July 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitch

      If human history has taught us one thing it is that few people are 100% monogomous for life. We cannot rely on ideal situations that will never happen.

      July 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. janda

    Nature is trying to manuever these people out of existence. We should step aside an let nature take its course.
    We don't know the long term plan of this world.

    July 13, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • FCR

      So, let me get this straight. Acquiring the AIDS virus in Africa or any nation is a form of genocide and that they should continue killing themselves? Are you kidding me? http://www.prevailingwordbiblechurch.org

      July 15, 2010 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. snj

    This is a positive story. It's great that the up and coming generation in Sub-Saharan Africa is taking a visible stand against AIDS and HIV. This is great news. Hopefully soon enough, other areas of African life (jobs, money for resources, programs for people, less dependence on aid, growing economies) will start to improve.

    July 14, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  4. Constance

    We all should be joining in worldwide to fight this horrific virus that has claimed so many lives and been a destroyer of many innocent people. We owe it to ourselves, to our children, and to the future! Understanding that we are powerless against HIV/AIDS, unless we are willing to fight. Real Education about HIV/AIDS + Real Action = Real Results.

    July 14, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |