Young people account for many of the new HIV cases in Canada, which is a sign that there needs to be more education directed towards youth, said the president and CEO of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.

“One of the biggest (groups) affected is young people up to age 25,” said Chris Bunting.

“When you look at the statistics, more than half of Grade 9 kids in Canada believe there is a cure for AIDS ... The fact remains that there is no cure, no vaccine, and we still have a global pandemic on our hands.”

It’s so critical to engage the Canadian youth that CANFAR is targeting the message towards them today on World AIDS Day.

A generation ago, the life expectancy of someone diagnosed with AIDS was 11 months, said Bunting. These days, people can live with AIDS for a long time, and youth, he said, “don’t see the complexity.”

While the changing notion of HIV as a manageable illness may have had an effect on public perception, but according to one expert, proper education is still the most effective weapon in fighting the spread of the disease.

“Definitely, HIV has changed and it is now thought of as a more chronic, manageable illness and this may play a role in the choices that people of all ages make in relation to their participation in risky behaviours,” said AIDS Committee of Ottawa executive director Kathleen Cummings.

“I think what plays a bigger role, especially with youth, is a lack of access to appropriate and relevant education and information and safer sex and harm reduction supplies," she added. "It is thought that if we talk about sex and drugs with youth that we are encouraging youth to be sexual and use drugs; the truth is by not providing proper education and appropriate tools, we are putting youth at an increased risk and then blaming them for not being responsible.”

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