UNICEF has stressed the importance of investing in adolescent-appropriate prevention and care programmes to ensure that young people, who make up almost half of new infections both globally and in Rwanda, do not become the missing face of AIDS.
This call was made at the seventh National Paediatric Conference that got underway in Kigali on Wednesday, with a focus on adolescents’ response towards HIV/AIDS.
The meeting brought together over 200 experts from Rwanda and East African countries.
UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Elke Wisch, commended Rwanda for addressing the concerns of this age group.
“We hardly hear about challenges facing adolescents affected by HIV on the global stage. We rarely see them targeted in prevention efforts and, of increasing concern, we find few treatment programmes adapted to their special needs,” Wisch said.
According to UNICEF, in Rwanda, 40 percent of new HIV infections are of young people aged between 15 and 24 years.
Global statistics from the same UN organisation indicates that at least 2,500 young people are infected with HIV across the world everyday.
Adolescence (10- 19 years) is a phase of physical growth and development accompanied by sexual maturation, often leading to sexual intercourse.
In Rwanda, adolescents and young people constitute the majority of the population.
According to the general population census in 2002, 52 percent are young people under 18 years; 49 percent of population is under 15 years while 60 percent are less than 20.