HIV prevalence falling among youths: UNAIDS

Prevalence of HIV among young people is falling in some of the worst-hit countries around the world amid a change in their sexual behaviour patterns, UNAIDS said Tuesday.

"For the first time... reductions in HIV prevalence among young people have coincided with a change in sexual behaviour patterns among people," said the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS in a report.

"A change is happening among young people across the world, especially in parts of sub-Saharan Africa" where about 80 percent of infected youths - four million - live," said UNAIDS.

"Waiting longer to become sexually active, young people have fewer multiple partners and there's an increased use of condoms among those with multiple partners," it noted.

Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe have managed to cut their prevalence rates among youths by a quarter.

Burundi, Lesotho, Rwanda, Swaziland, the Bahamas, Haiti, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia count among countries which are on track to meeting the same target by the end of 2010, said UNAIDS.

This is a "breakthrough essential for breaking the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic," said the agency.

However, UNAIDS director of monitoring and evaluation Paul De Lay said that while the epidemic is showing a declining trend in sub-Saharan Africa, it is gaining ground among the young in eastern European countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus.

About five million youths aged 15 to 24 worldwide live with HIV/AIDS.

Some 900,000 youths were infected in 2008, 66 percent of them women, said UNAIDS.