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The World in Medicine
August 14, 2002

Youth Ignorance of HIV/AIDS

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JAMA. 2002;288(6):689. doi:10.1001/jama.288.6.689-JWM20008-4-1

Young people are the group hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. Half of all new infections today are in people aged 15 to 24 years. Yet even in countries with extremely high prevalence rates, young people lack information about the infection and about how to protect themselves, according to a new report produced by United Nations agencies.

The UN report examines HIV/AIDS-related knowledge and sexual behavior in young people, and outlines steps that countries should take as part of their prevention efforts aimed at youth, including teaching young people life skills to handle sexuality issues and providing youth-friendly health services. The authors note that successful prevention campaigns in Thailand, Zambia, and elsewhere demonstrate that "when serious and sustained efforts are made to ensure that young people live in a supportive environment and have the knowledge, skills, and services to protect themselves, HIV rates decline."