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news release

Melanie Croce-Galis

For Immediate Release: June 2, 2004


Young People Protect Themselves, But Need More Help

Despite lacking essential information and services, many youth in Sub-Saharan Africa are trying to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unplanned pregnancies, a new report from The Alan Guttmacher Institute shows. Still, half of new HIV infections in 2003 occurred among young people aged 15-24. provides a regional overview—with information for 24 countries-of adolescents' knowledge of HIV/AIDS and behaviors that put them at risk or protect them from infection. It also outlines the key areas where policies and programs must be improved to provide young people with greater support.

"Surveillance systems that track HIV/AIDS levels and trends often do not look at young people's behaviors," said Akinrinola Bankole, associate director for international research and lead author of Risk and Protection. "We developed this report to give policymakers and those providing health information and services more useful—and often missing—information about what adolescents actually know and do. By addressing the needs of young people in more responsive ways, it may be possible to slow down and ultimately conquer the HIV/AIDS epidemic."

Risk and Protection reveals both the measures adolescents take to protect themselves and the gaps that prevent them from fully taking charge of their sexual and reproductive health. It finds that to serve young people better, their needs must be addressed on several fronts. In addition to the ABC (abstinence, be faithful, use condoms) approach advocated in many countries, young people need basic sex education, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), and treatment of STIs. The report also examines the social and economic context of adolescents' lives in an effort to understand the progression of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region. Findings indicate that greater attention must be paid to cultural and economic factors, which can have enormous influence on adolescents' sexual and reproductive health.

Risk and Protection analyzes Demographic and Health Survey data that cover more than 50 indicators from 24 countries over the past five years. Planners and service providers in each country can use the findings to assess their own situation and compare it objectively with that of other countries and the region as a whole.

The executive summary and full report can be found .

An additional resource summarizing research on youth and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa since 1995 can be found .

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