World AIDS Day

1 DECEMBER 2013 | GLOBAL

New HIV guidance for adolescents launched

To mark the 25 Anniversary of World AIDS Day, WHO has launched new HIV recommendations to increase testing, counselling, treatment and care for adolescents. The WHO recommendations "HIV and adolescents: Guidance for HIV testing and counselling and care for adolescents living with HIV" is the first of its kind to address the specific needs of adolescents both for those living with HIV as well as those who are at risk of infection.

More than 2 million adolescents between 10- and 19-years-old are living with HIV, and many do not receive the care and support that they need to stay in good health and prevent transmission. Millions more adolescents are also at risk of infection.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, many who were infected at birth are becoming adolescents. In addition to the many changes associated with adolescence, they also face the challenges of living with a chronic infection: disclosing the news to friends and family and preventing transmission to sexual partners.

WHO recommends governments review their laws to make it easier for adolescents to obtain HIV testing without needing consent from their parents. The guidelines also suggest ways that health services can improve the quality of care and social support for adolescents. They also highlight the value of involving this age group to create an adolescent-centered approach to the services that work for people of their age.

Key messages from the new guidelines include:

  • The HIV epidemic among adolescents needs more attention and a tailored approach.
  • Issues and services for adolescents should be included explicitly in national HIV responses, policies and plans.
  • Different subpopulations of adolescents may need different approaches to service delivery.
  • National laws and policies on consent to services should be reviewed to reduce barriers to access and increase uptake of services by adolescents.
  • Adolescents need increased access to testing through provider-initiated testing and counselling in health services in all high HIV-prevalence countries, and through community-based services for adolescents from key populations in all settings.
  • There must be effective linkage following HIV testing to prevention, treatment and care services.
  • Adolescents need increased access to ART and improved support to remain in care and adhere to treatment—from national to local or community-based services.
  • Adolescents should be involved in the development of appropriate and effective HIV services.

The guidelines also provide specific recommendations and expert suggestions — for national policy-makers and programme managers and their partners and stakeholders— on prioritizing, planning and providing HIV testing, counselling, treatment and care services for adolescents.

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