The World Health Organisation has warned that many teenagers are "falling through the cracks of HIV services" despite the disease remaining the world's most significant public health challenge, affecting 35.3 people globally.

Of these, 3.34 million are children and more than two million are adolescents. but WHO director Dr Gottfried Hirnschall has suggested that services are currently often targeted at younger children and adults.

As a result, many young people do not receive the care and support they require to stay in good health, so end up transmitting the disease to others. Therefore, there has been a 50% increase in Aids-related deaths among 10-24 year-olds, compared to a 30% decline in the general population from 2005 and 2012. 

Dr Hirnschall, director of the HIV/AIDs department, said: “Adolescents face difficult and often confusing emotional and social pressures as they grow from children into adults. They need health services and support, tailored to their needs. They are less likely than adults to be tested for HIV and often need more support than adults to help them maintain care and to stick to treatment.”

As a result, the WHO has published new guidance for professionals and policymakers, which was released in the run-up to the recent World Aids Day 2013.  HIV and adolescents: Guidance for HIV testing and counselling and care for adolescents living with HIV, contains its recommendations to increase HIV testing and counselling and support better provision of services.

The guidelines were developed based on scientific evidence, community consultations with adolescents and health workers, field experience of health workers and expert opinion. Download them at:  www.who.int/hiv/pub/guidelines/adolescents/en/index.html

(Picture posed by model)