Young people in low- and middle-income countries are not
gaining the comprehensive, correct knowledge of HIV and
AIDS that is essential for their protection.1 On average, only
31 per cent of young men and 19 per cent of young women
aged 15 to 24 years have this knowledge – far short of the
target of 95 per cent by 2010 that was set at the United
Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV and
AIDS in 2001. Young women are less likely to have such
knowledge than young men, and youth of both sexes living
in rural areas are less likely to have it than those living in
Comprehensive, correct knowledge of HIV among young
people remains low in most high-burden countries. In
only three countries in the world – Namibia, Rwanda and
Swaziland – do half or more of young men and young
women have such knowledge.
The level of knowledge varies widely between countries –
ranging from 1 per cent among young men in Romania to
65 per cent among young women in Namibia. Knowledge
among young women has improved between 2000 and 2008
by at least 10 percentage points in 18 out of 49 developing
countries with survey-based trend data, and among young
men, in 8 out of 16 such countries. This partial progress is
welcome, but it is essential and urgent to sustain prevention
efforts that respond to adolescents’ changing needs.
There are challenges in getting complete and accurate
disaggregated data on knowledge of HIV and condom
use among older adolescents (15–19 years old) and young
adults (20–24 years old). This information is needed if the
most vulnerable young people are to be reached.
1 Comprehensive, correct knowledge is defined as correctly identifying the two major ways of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV (using condoms and limiting sex to one faithful, uninfected partner), rejecting the two most common local misconceptions about HIV transmission and knowing that a healthy-looking person can transmit HIV.