Young people most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS

Young people are at the centre of the global AIDS epidemic in terms of rates of infection, vulnerability, impact, and potential for change.

Young people are at the centre of the global AIDS epidemic in terms of rates of infection, vulnerability, impact, and potential for change.

Of the 1.5 billion young people worldwide, 11.8 million are estimated to be living with HIV. Everyday between 5,000 and 6,000 young people (15-24 years) contract HIV.

Epidemiological studies show that between 17 – 20% of girls aged 15 to 19 years are already infected compared to 3 - 7 % among boys of the same age group. Girls are often more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS than boys of the same age.

Many reasons are advanced to explain this but my interest is particularly on the ‘sexual mixing pattern or cross- generational sex’.

Usually this kind of sex relationship is done in exchange for money or any other tangible benefits which sometimes lead to sexual violence. There is growing evidence that older men are responsible for the increasing rate of HIV infections among young girls.

These men prey on the girls’ economic insecurity by rewarding sex with gifts or money while others resort to sexual abuse and coercion. Girls should beware of this. This violates their sexual and reproductive health rights.

This is very dangerous especially because the girls may end up being infected since they are not empowered enough to insist on safe sex. I urge gender activists to empower and help the young girls to desist from cross-generational sex.

Nyamirambo

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