Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

AIDS 2008 conference highlights prevention, youth, children

09 August 2008

AIDS 2008 conference logo

The biannual International AIDS Conference took place in Mexico City from 3-8 August 2008, at which HIV prevention emerged as the overarching theme. In particular, 'combination prevention' was the phrase of the week, in recognition that there is no single "silver bullet" that is effective for prevention, but a combination of condoms, male circumcision, microbicides, and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). One of the most successful examples of HIV prevention to date is in the area of mother-to-child transmission, which is now more than 90% effective.

Delegates at the AIDS conference were urged to give even greater attention and resources to the needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS. An estimated 2.1 million children under 15 years were living with AIDS in 2007, 90% of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa. Though children's access to antiretroviral treatment has increased substantially in recent years, it is still far lower than the coverage rate for adults.

At the AIDS conference, WHO launched a new package of priority interventions designed to help low- and middle-income countries move towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support.

From 31 July - 2 August, a YouthForce Pre-Conference event was held which brought together approximately 250 HIV/AIDS activists aged 16 to 26 years. They participated in informative and skills-building workshops around HIV/AIDS issues, and developed solutions from the youth perspective.

Also immediately prior to the AIDS conference, on 1 August the first meeting of Ministers of Health and Education to Stop HIV and STIs in Latin America and the Caribbean was held. This meeting resulted in a Ministerial Declaration which set out key targets, including the following:

  • By the year 2015, we will have reduced by 75% the number of schools that do not provide comprehensive sexuality education
  • By the year 2015, we will reduce by 50% the number of adolescents and young people who are not covered by health services that appropriately attend to their sexual and reproductive needs.

Dr Bruce Dick, Medical Officer with WHO's Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development, co-authored a poster which was presented at AIDS 2008 entitled "Review and guidance for effective psychosocial interventions for young people living with HIV".

The next AIDS conference will be held in Vienna in 2010.