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Young people at greater risk of HIV infection

[Mozambique] Carla Andiseni, a peer educator orphaned by AIDS, and Manuel Jose, one of the "graduates" of UNICEF's "My Future is my choice" programme. IRIN
The youth are vulnerable to HIV infection
An increasing number of NGOs in South Africa are finding it difficult to formulate appropriate HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns specifically targeting the youth, who account for more than half the new infection each year. Tanja Arntz, head of the HIV/AIDS support unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), said 'AIDS fatigue' was a major obstacle when trying to inform young people about ways to protect themselves against the disease. The HIV/AIDS support unit has attempted to raise HIV/AIDS awareness through poetry recitals, theatre productions and film - methods broadly referred to as 'edutainment'. Arntz said these "fun" campaigns had so far reached more than 1,000 students. "It's not only about giving out information - we talk about the nitty-gritty," she explained, adding that it was important to play out real-life scenarios, so that people could apply the lessons learnt to their own lives. According to a recent survey by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), almost half the girls in sub-Saharan Africa aged 15 to 19 did not know that a healthy-looking person could be HIV-positive. In Mozambique, 74 percent of young men and 62 percent of young women in the same age group could not name a single method of protecting themselves against the disease. Sibongile Maimane, a fieldwork coordinator with the Durban-based Centre for HIV/AIDS Networking, told delegates at the 2nd South African AIDS conference in Durban last week: "Wider patterns of social exclusion have undermined young people's confidence in their ability to take control of their lives, and to exercise leadership over youth-relevant issues." According to Kelly Hallman, a researcher at the US-based Population Council (PC), an international NGO conducting biomedical, social science and public health research, one of the main reasons for the low level of participation in HIV prevention activities could be explained by stigma. Another factor in the rise in HIV transmission among the young was poverty, which significantly increased the likelihood of unsafe sexual behaviour, as it raised the likelihood of young women engaging in transactional sex, being forced into sexual relationships, and having multiple sexual partners, explained Hallman. Mhlengi Ndlela, an HIV/AIDS programme coordinator with the 'Men Making a Difference' project run by the faith-based charity, Hope Worldwide, pointed out that "young people [in poor communities] don't see a future for themselves". Ndlela said the charity offered workshops encouraging the youth to create a positive self-image and equip young people with information to resist peer-pressure and make the "right choices" throughout their lives.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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