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Youth & HIV: Efforts Must Be Focused Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Faddy, India Oct 14, 2003
Health   Opinions
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HIV/AIDS a Global Crisis:

Human immune virus, causing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has challenged human beings across the globe. Apart from being a medical problem, HIV/AIDS is emerging as a social problem because of its impacts on the society. Stigma and discrimination with people afflicted by this virus is common in almost all the societies, and studies suggest that it has increased the spread of the virus. The issue is associated with sex, which is a taboo in our society, and people hardly talk about it, which is, again, a strong reason of the virus’s spread.

The repercussions of its spread in the society are severe, and can be felt at every sphere of life. The virus causes huge economic losses in terms of medication, testing, counseling and improved dietary intake on one hand, and precautions and extra caution in every walk of life on the other. These are just the personal expenses, but when we talk about it at the community level, the expenditure on medical facilities and other infrastructure is huge in terms of hospitals, labs, equipments, staff and maintenance.
Imagine the situation when the breadwinner is infected. The household income will go down and at the same time the expenditure will go up. Under these circumstances, the household items say utensils, jewelry are likely to be sold. For example, in rural areas where agriculture is the main source of income and depends on traditional cultivation practices. Drought animals are the main source of power, which once sold for treatment, will never be purchased and the crops will be changed with those requiring less tillage. Again deaths in family will change the dynamics of society because more population will die prematurely. Early death will severely affect the transfer of rural technology, which flow from one generation and highly affect the rural as well as urban technology. One most important impact would be on young people because they will have to take the roles they will not be prepared for. Looking at another example, in the working class the absentees will increase due to weaker immune system of employees as a result of HIV infection. The major set back will be in terms of production as well as productivity. It is very well established that in the present scenario of WTO, productivity is the only tool to survive in competitive market. The expenditure of organization on medical reimbursement, death of staff will be increased. The regular deaths in the organization will affect the moral of the other staff members also. More importantly the organization will loose the skilled and experienced employees.

The issues surrounding HIV/AIDS are deeply embedded in cultural and social belief and practices, many of them intimate, personal and private
Worldwide around 11.8 million young people aged between 15-24 are living with the deadly virus. Out of this figure 7.3 million are young women and 4.5 million are young men. In South Asia 1 in 1000 young people are HIV positive out of this 62 per cent are female and 38 per cent are male. In India out of total 1025096 thousand people 30 per cent are the age group of 15 – 24 years. Among this population 890000 female and 470000 male are living with the virus. This constitutes 0.96 per cent female and 0.46 per cent male at higher side.

Why Youth:
HIV spreads rapidly both within countries and across the borders. It affects people regardless of gender, geography or sexual orientation. The main route of transfer of HIV is through sexual intercourse or contact (that is so in most of the parts of the country, except northeast states, where inter-venal drug use is main reason of spread). As the sexually active and reproductive age starts from as early as 12, young people become more vulnerable to infection.

Young people’s indulgence in sex:
With the onset of adolescence, both boys and girls begin to be involved in sexual activities. A study in Bangladesh revealed that 88 per cent of unmarried urban boys and 35 per cent of unmarried urban girls had engaged in sexual activities by the time they were 18. In rural Bangladesh these figures were 38 per cent for boys and 6 per cent for girls.

Early marriage is common across the globe, but in India 50 percent of girls marry before they are 18. Adolescents’ indulgence in sexual activities is more likely to put them active with high-risk group partners like street children and commercial sex workers. All of them have multiple sex partners that increase their vulnerability to contract the infection. And moreover they are less likely to use a condom while having sex.
Experimentation is a common feature of young age. Young people usually experiment with sex because of this, and due to the excessive desire of enjoying sex because of ahormonal peak in the body at this stage. Sometime peer pressure becomes the reason for indulging in sexual activities just to be there in the gang or to impress the friends.

Lack of information:
A study conducted by UNICEF with WHO and UNAIDS in the year 2001 revealed the level of information of young people of the age 15-24 in India. According to the study only 37 per cent young people have heard about AIDS, 57 percent know that a person can protect themselves from HIV infection by one faithful partner if they have sexual intercourse only with that person; 59 per cent know that they can protect themselves by consistent condom use, 71 per cent know that they can protect themselves by abstinence from sex and 26 per cent young people know that a healthy looking person can be infected with HIV.

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