International health experts explain the importance of donating more
resources to stop the spread of AIDS. (7/8/02)
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Prevention and Education for teens
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Young: The Fight Against AIDS
July 12, 2002
the time you finish reading this, forty more people under the age of
25 will become infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Once thought to affect mostly gay men and intravenous drug users, AIDS
is now hitting young people hardest.
In the U.S. last year, more than 32,000 people between 13 and 24 became
infected with HIV.
Why are teens and young adults falling victim to this fatal but preventable
Experts aren't completely sure, but some think one problem is many young
people just don't take AIDS seriously anymore.
Most teens in the U.S and other developed countries have heard about
AIDS prevention in school, on TV and from friends and family and some
of them are getting
tired of it.
To many teens, AIDS just doesn't seem like that big a deal anymore.
And with all the new medication available, people with AIDS are living
longer, more normal lives. But while AIDS and HIV patients are happy
to be able to blend in with the rest of society, there may be an unintended
effect: the AIDS epidemic is becoming invisible.
But AIDS isn't over. And new infections are rising fastest among young
people, especially heterosexual young females.
The AIDS epidemic
has hit Africa hardest. Of the 40 million people living with AIDS today,
65 percent are in southern Africa where many people have trouble paying
for food, let alone expensive new drugs to fight the disease.
In Botswana, the country that has been affected the worst, 40% of adults
are HIV positive. A 16-year-old boy in Southern Africa has a 60% chance
of dying from AIDS in his lifetime. It's not surprising that some people
in wealthy nations are tempted to dismiss AIDS as an African problem.
"It's very striking that in the wealthy countries there is a perception
that AIDS is over," said Peter Piot, executive director of the
United Nations' AIDS agency. "The availability of treatment has
resulted in a complacency which is becoming really dangerous."
The majority of people with AIDS live on less than $1 a day and cannot
afford the treatment they need. Of Africa's 26 million people with AIDS,
only 36,000 get treatment similar to what richer countries offer.
Of the 5 million newly infected AIDS victims in 2001, 58% were under
25. By the year 2020, 68 million people are expected to die of AIDS.
Experts are also worried about other parts of the world, like Russia
and Eastern Europe where there were 250,000 new infections in 2001.
On Sunday, the world's
largest AIDS conference
began in Barcelona. Peter Piot, who is the leader of the United Nations
AIDS agency, spoke of the need for large, developed nations to donate
money to poorer nations combating AIDS. To fund AIDS prevention programs,
poor countries will need $10 billion every year.
So far this year, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS has only raised about
$3 billion. The United States donated $500 million. Many protestors
in Barcelona are complaining that since America is one of the richest
nations in the world, they should donate more money.
The most shocking
information from this conference is a study done by the U.N. that shows
that youth are more susceptible to AIDS than ever. According to UNAIDS,
6,000 young people
are infected every day -- about one every 15 seconds.
Peter Piot said, "It is clear that young people do not have the
information and means to protect themselves from HIV."
For example, the study reports that "In Ukraine, although 99 per
cent of girls had heard of AIDS, only 9 per cent could name three ways
to avoid infection."
do you think? Are teens just sick and tired of hearing about AIDS?
Should they take it more seriously? What's the best way to help?
-- Contributed by
Amy L. Kovac