HIV/AIDS: WHO concerned at growing number of HIV positive teenagers

Summary: The number of HIV positive teenagers has grown by a third in the past ten years the world over. According to the World Health Organization, over 2 million teenagers between 10 and 19 are currently HIV positive. The mortality rate for HIV positive teenagers is higher than for older adults. Experts point out the absence of mandatory HIV testing in children as the main reason.

[27 November 2013] - 

AIDS, or the HIV-caused immunodeficiency syndrome, is reaching out to ever younger people. Earlier, it was the age group of 20 to 29 that accounted for the most HIV positive cases, but catching up with them now are teenagers of 10 to 19 years old. Director of WHO HIV Department, Gottfried Hirnschall, has called attention to the situation in the run-up to World AIDS Day, observed on December 1st .

“The incidence rate of AIDS among teenagers remains steadily high. This is, above all, true of teenage girls in Africa, South of Sahara, young male homosexuals, above all, in Asia, namely in Bangladesh, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. Also in a high-risk area are intravenous drug users. It is an established fact that over 30% of young drug addicts in Eastern Europe are HIV positive”.

What’s more, the mortality rate in children and teenagers with HIV/AIDS has grown by 50% in the past 8 years. By contrast, the death rate in HIV/AIDS adults has dropped by a third thanks to efforts by medial workers. The problem is that there are no AIDS prophylaxis programmes for children, points out the Chairman of a Russian public organization “Association of People with HIV”, Vladimir Mayanovsky.

“The problem is not that AIDS in children is more difficult to treat, but that the disease is diagnosed at advanced stage. Teenagers do not come under the screening programme. They are actually not tested for HIV. So they learn about the horrible disease at the end-stage, when it’s too late, when doctors, unfortunately, can rarely prove helpful. A certain percent of those infected responds to treatment and their condition improves, while others do not, and die”.

Doctors urge that prophylactic medical examinations of schoolchildren should by all means include HIV tests. Given that teenagers in their awkward years are conflict-prone in relation to their parents, it stands to reason that they are allowed to be tested for HIV without their parents’ consent. True, this may call for changing laws in many countries, but children should in any case be granted access to timely medical services. This will help save many a life, for today AIDS is not a death sentence, reassures the leading research worker with the Federal Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS, Oleg Yurin, and elaborates.

“It is an incurable disease - the point is that a person remains the carrier of this virus. However, if a person undergoes medical treatment in due time – let’s take, for example, diabetes mellitus or hypertension – while a person is taking medicines it is possible to stop the further development of this disease. Even if secondary diseases are in existence, they disappear amid medical treatment. But it is necessary to take medicines all the time.”

According to the United Nations, there are 34 million HIV –infected people in the world today. And every third person learned about his (her) disease just by chance.



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