Major strides have been made in addressing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS around the world. Adults are mostly benefiting as cases involving 10 to 19-year-olds in Africa continue to rise, with many leading to death.
In response, the United Nations has launched a global initiative called "All In," aiming to provide adolescents with HIV services specifically catering to their needs and fast-track progress to improve efforts, ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Through the partnership between UNICEF and UNAIDS, the initiative was launched in Nairobi, Kenya as world leaders gathered for a UN meeting.
Anthony Lake, executive director for UNICEF, stressed that young people and children should be the first to benefit from efforts at ending the epidemic, not the last ones.
"We need to reach the adolescents we are missing and engage all young people in the effort to end adolescent AIDS. In fact, we cannot achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation without them," added Lake.
Michel Sidibé, executive director for UNAIDS, shared Lake's sentiments, calling on young people to help the All In movement and take an active role in protecting themselves from the epidemic.
Majority of the 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV in 2013 acquired the virus at least 10 years ago from their mothers, getting infected when they were born or during the first months of their life. At the time, antiretroviral drugs that have the ability to greatly reduce HIV transmissions were not available. Many of the adolescents infected, however, were never even diagnosed so they don't know they have the virus. Others simply fell out of care and treatment programs offered.
While HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa, the problem is not confined to the region. Cases are also prevalent in the Pacific and East Asia. In Thailand, for instance, HIV cases have risen in young people as 70 percent of sexually transmitted infections occur in 15 to 24-year-olds.
According to data released in 2014, individuals with the highest risk of acquiring infections are young people sharing needles to inject drugs, those engaged in sex work and young men having unprotected sex with other men.
Rates of new HIV cases in adolescents are not dropping as quickly as other age groups, but girls are more susceptible than boys, with over 860 girls getting infected each week in 2013 compared to 170 new cases weekly in boys.