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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Teenagers 'complacent' over HIV
Mark Fowler, EastEnders
Soap characters have raised Aids awareness
Teenagers are sitting on an Aids timebomb as they become complacent about health warnings, according to new research.

Health analysts found that today's teenagers think of Aids as something that will not affect them.

Cases are soaring by 50% and expected to hit 34,000 in the UK by 2005.

Analysts Datamonitors found that the under 30s were particularly vulnerable and lived a lifestyle "almost in ignorance of the threat of Aids".


Under 30s are continuing to live a lifestyle almost in ignorance of the threat of Aids

Dr Dheeraj Khiytani

They said governments, parents and healthcare providers needed to take urgent action now to stop a health crisis.

Complacency

Dr Dheeraj Khiytani, an HIV analyst at Datamonitor, said that since the tough government adverts of the 1980's media interest in Aids had died down and that people were becoming complacent. Cases of sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase.

He said: "The problem today is one of complacency, where the general public are almost too comfortable in the belief that HIV is under control and has no place in their lives.

Aids drugs
Some patients are skipping drugs to avoid side effects

"Under 30s are continuing to live a lifestyle almost in ignorance of the threat of Aids, as a new generation of teenagers grow up believing that HIV is not something that will affect them."

He said that programmes like EastEnders, which features Mark Fowler, an HIV sufferer, destigmatise the disease but might also create the impression that all those with long-term HIV can live "a completely normal life".

No vaccine

He also blamed an increase in the use of recreational drugs for an acceleration of the progression of the disease, along with the fact that people are skipping doses of their treatments to avoid side effects

Dr Khiytani said that although there had been considerable advances in the treatment of HIV there was still no effective vaccine.

Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, agreed: "Young people don't see sexual health and HIV as a priority - this, combined with the recent dramatic rises in rates of sexually transmitted infections demonstrates that we are storing up problems for future generations.

"Teenagers who were at school during the Aids awareness campaigns of the 1980s are now adults, but today's teenagers are much less aware of the facts - a survey last year found that 40% of 11-year-old boys had never heard of HIV. "

See also:

08 Mar 02 | Scotland
Charity targets HIV prejudice
26 Feb 02 | Health
US HIV cases 'on the rise'
26 Feb 02 | Health
HIV vaccines show promise
28 Nov 01 | Health
Forty million living with HIV
25 Jun 01 | Health
Warning over Aids complacency
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