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Africa's young 'abandoned' to Aids
South African children
Unicef: Not enough has been done to halt HIV in the young
Soaring HIV infection rates among young Africans are a "searing indictment" of political leaders, according an annual UN children's fund (Unicef) survey.

Unicef's "Progress of Nations" report, released at the 13th International Aids conference in Durban, South Africa, reveals even more depressing figures about the toll the disease is taking on the continent's youth.


The HIV infection rates among young people...tell the story of the virtual abandonment of sub-Saharan Africa, at a time of dire need

Carol Bellamy, Unicef
By the end of 1999, 10m people aged 15 to 24 had contracted the virus worldwide.

Six young people are being infected every minute.

But, says Unicef, the crisis is focused in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Botswana, for example, one in three women and one in seven men in this age group have HIV.

One in ten young men in Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe are affected.

Girls and young women are more than 50% more likely to contract the virus than boys and young men.

Carol Bellamy, Unicef's executive director, was scathing about the failures of governments, both in and out of Africa, to protect the young from infection.

She said: "Particularly disturbing is the evidence that large numbers in HIV-prevalent countries are not clear how to protect themselves.

'Failures of vision'

"Many don't know they are at risk at all - especially girls - and that's a disaster."

She added: "The HIV infection rates among young people are a searing indictment, documenting failures of vision, commitment and action of almost unimaginable proportions.

"They tell the story of leadership unworthy of the name and the virtual abandonment of sub-Saharan Africa, at a time of dire need, to a disaster that may soon engulf other regions as well."

The effects of HIV and Aids are impacting on many aspects of children's lives.

Many thousands have been left orphaned, and in sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that 860,000 primary school children have lost their teachers to the disease.

The report also found:

  • In several countries, almost half of all girls age 15-19 do not know that a person who looks healthy can have HIV
  • In a number of countries where AIDS is epidemic, nearly half of sexually active girls age 15-19 believe they face no risk of contracting the disease
  • In 17 countries, over half of adolescents could not name a single method of protecting themselves against HIV

The Unicef report also examines the HIV crisis in India and Asia. India is now reckoned to have the second highest number of HIV positive patients in the world.

Myanmar has one of the fastest-growing epidemics, with an estimated 530,000 infected. Thailand has more than 750,000.

On Wednesday, the Durban conference is expected to hear about the role of intravenous drug use in the spread of HIV.

It will also be told by several researchers about efforts to harness the influence of traditional healers in attempts to educate people in sub-Saharan Africa about the perils of unprotected sex.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"HIV infection has had a huge impact on the lives of children"

In DepthIN DEPTH
Zambia Aids orphansOrphaned continent
Can Africa ever beat Aids?
See also:

11 Jul 00 | Africa
11 Jul 00 | UK Politics
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