Young people leading drop in HIV spread, says study

Friday, 16 July 2010 14:23 by RNA Reporter

Kigali: The prevalence of HIV/Aids is falling among young Rwandans because they are having safer sex with fewer partners, the United Nations AIDS programme said ahead of a major conference next week in Vienna.

The agency said in a study that the main drivers of the reductions were changes in sexual behaviour. Young Rwandans between 15-24 years were also said to be waiting longer before they become sexually active. In some cases, the young people were choosing to have fewer sexual partners.

Condom use was also on the increase, the study found.

However, the UNAIDS study said Rwanda – like other heavily affected countries, will have trouble achieving the 25 percent reduction in HIV prevalence by the end of this year. Rwanda is “likely to achieve” this level set by the governments, the report said.

In a study published ahead a global AIDS conference due to be held in Vienna next week, UNAIDS found that in 16 of the 25 worst affected countries, rates of HIV had been falling among young people, with some of the most dramatic declines seen in Kenya, where there was a 60 percent change between 2000 and 2005.

In Rwanda, the HIV prevalence rate is estimated to be 3.1 percent according to the government's 2008 Demographic and Health Survey.

But health officials are concerned that not enough is being done to contain the pandemic among teenagers.

A country-wide programme involving various stakeholders was launched in February to tackle the rate of infection and increasing risky sexual behaviour among teenagers.

According to the results of a National AIDS Control Commission (CNLS) behavioural survey conducted in 2000, only 10 percent of the country’s sexually active youth use condoms.

The UNAIDS study calls on governments worldwide to learn from this progress and provide comprehensive programmes for sexual health education, access to HIV testing and wide availability of prevention methods such as condoms.