Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

HIV and youth

Currently, over 30% of all new HIV infections globally are estimated to occur among youth ages 15 to 25 years. Also, increasingly, children infected at birth grow into adolescents who have to deal with their HIV positive status. Combining the two, there are 5 million youth living with HIV.

Young people’s risk of becoming newly infected with HIV is closely correlated with age of sexual debut. Abstinence from sexual intercourse and delayed initiation of sexual behaviour are among the central aims of HIV prevention efforts for young people. Decreasing the number of sexual partners and increasing access to, and utilization of comprehensive prevention services, including prevention education and increasing access to condoms are essential for young people who are sexually active.


Programmes should also focus on prevention and early intervention in other health risk behaviours that may lead to HIV infection, such as injecting substances. Young people need HIV testing services that are accessible and appropriate. Young people living with HIV need treatment, care, support and positive prevention services. All HIV services for young people should involve young people living with HIV in their planning and provision.

WHO's Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent health works with colleagues in the Department of HIV/AIDS to ensure that the special needs of adolescents are addressed in WHO guidelines and programming advice to countries.