Voice of America News (11.25.2013)
Voice of America recently released contents of a World Health Organization (WHO) report that stressed the need for governments worldwide—especially in sub-Saharan Africa—to focus attention on HIV testing and care for adolescents. WHO estimated there are more than 2 million HIV-infected adolescents worldwide between ages 10–19, and approximately 70 percent of HIV-infected adolescents lived in sub-Saharan Africa. Only 10 percent of adolescent males and 15 percent of adolescent females in sub-Saharan Africa knew their HIV status, according to WHO. While HIV-related deaths worldwide declined by 30 percent throughout the last decade, HIV-related deaths among adolescents increased by 50 percent.
Craig McClure, associate director and chief of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) HIV/AIDS Division, noted that recent efforts have focused on testing and treatment of pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission. He urged countries to extend those efforts from birth to adulthood and to ensure that HIV-infected adolescents had access to treatment and care.
Barriers to adolescent HIV testing and care included a lack of social support as well as the fact that laws in many sub-Saharan African countries prohibited anyone under 18 from having HIV tests without parental consent. McClure stated there were not enough youth-friendly HIV counseling and testing services; government-funded, youth-led HIV awareness interventions; or sufficient support services to keep adolescents in care and treatment. WHO, UNICEF, and other partners were working to develop guidelines for HIV testing and care services tailored to adolescents. The WHO report urged governments to revisit their age-of-consent policies for HIV testing.