For years HIV was at the center of attention in the media and in institutions. It was the main focus of a number of awareness and prevention campaigns. Then, it began to pass unobserved. There is not much talk about HIV today, but it is as dangerous as ever. In fact, more and more cases of HIV are being reported by young people.
Statistics are clear: HIV has not yet been defeated
After the terror of the 80s and 90s, the success of anti-HIV therapy unfortunately has produced a terrible side effect. It spread the idea that the problem was solved, resulting in a decline in general interest in the disease. Not only did the population lower its guard, but institutions and the scientific community did as well, especially with regards to prevention. Today we are faced with a lack of awareness, if not complete ignorance, among young adults and teenagers about HIV. Consequently, the highest incidence of new cases in Italy is among people aged 25-29, data that has remained constant over the last 5 years. Even if the number of HIV cases in Italy and Europe are unchanging, the National Aids Center of the National Institute of Health (ISS) and UNICEF report that the numbers of cases in young people should be on a more rapid decline. There are currently 3 million children and adolescents in the world that are HIV-positive, with nearly 700 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 that become HIV-positive every day. It is estimated that by 2030 the number of new cases of HIV among children will be cut in half while the number of new cases among adolescents will drop only by 29%. According to UNICEF, progress is moving too slowly, even if research continues to find new solutions to prevent the spread of infection. 360,000 adolescents are expected to die from AIDS by 2030 if more investments are not made in prevention programs, diagnosis and HIV treatments. To make things worse, there is little understanding about the disease, a lack of awareness about the risks of the disease and an even lower level of willingness to undergo HIV testing. Furthermore, there is a decline in condom use. According to the Italian League for the Fight against AIDS (LILA), more than 50% of young people do not use condoms. This is quite alarming considering prevention is the most effective weapon in fighting every type of disease.
A lack of information puts young people at greater risk
LILA reports a lack of knowledge about HIV among young people. Unfounded doubts and anxiety about becoming infected by masturbation, indirect sexual contact and even by kissing or the use of public bathrooms arrive daily on their helpline. There is even less knowledge about the difference between HIV and AIDS. Being HIV positive does not necessarily mean you have AIDS. From the moment a blood test results positive to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), years can pass before someone is actually diagnosed with AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Yet this only creates more confusion in a population of young people who have received no information about the disease from their schools, families or the media.
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