Aids Update: Suffer the Children

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As a group, teenagers tend to assume they're going to live forever. But not in Africa, and especially not in those countries hardest hit by AIDS. According to a new United Nations study, 15-year-olds living in sub-Saharan Africa have a fifty-fifty chance of getting infected with the AIDS virus--and dying long before their time.

"The report is very sobering," says Dr. Peter Piot, who directed the study. Today five young people contract HIV/AIDS somewhere in the world every minute. At highest risk are African women ages 15 to 24; they are two to three times as likely as young men to be HIV positive, owing to their having sex with older male partners--a heavily infected population in Africa.

Still, Piot saw some signs of hope. Uganda, the first African country to adopt a nationwide prevention program stressing safe sex with condoms, has seen its HIV-infection rate among teenage girls drop from almost 5% in 1990 to 1.5% today.