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AIDS Africa

JOHANNESBURG — A U.N.-led alliance on Wednesday urged young people to change behaviors that increase their risk of contracting AIDS, and called on their elders to provide leadership, education and support.

Their joint report released Wednesday, “Opportunity in Crisis: Preventing HIV from early adolescence to young adulthood,” says that around the world some 2,500 young people are infected daily with HIV, and that in the year 2009 people between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for 41 percent of new HIV infections among all those over the age of 15.

The organizations that released the report urge communities, leaders and young people to act to stop sex with multiple partners or with older partners, whose prevalence of HIV is statistically higher.

That behavior, the groups say, is “fueling HIV transmission among young people, particularly young women.”

The alliance includes U.N. agencies for children, AIDS, education, health and women, the International Labor Organization and the World Bank.

“We must protect the second decade of life, so that the journey from childhood to adulthood is not derailed by HIV — a journey that is especially fraught for girls and young women,” U.N. children’s agency director Anthony Lake said in a statement Wednesday.

The report said poverty and unemployment have to be addressed because they can push young people into prostitution. They also cited concerns about discrimination against women, which can keep women from refusing unwanted sex, negotiating safe sex, or objecting to a partner’s infidelity. It also says many teens lack access to basic information about HIV and how to prevent AIDS, and to testing services.

But the groups pointed to strategies that can help, such as a campaign in Tanzania to ridicule the idea of men pursuing younger women.

“Existing prevention strategies have had limited success, so we have to look for creative new approaches to reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” Mahmoud Mohieldin, the World Bank’s managing director, said in a statement. “These must address people’s very basic needs for education, economic security, inclusion, dignity, and human rights. These issues are particularly crucial when we consider the health and well-being of adolescent girls, mothers and children, and socially marginalized groups.”

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