Youth delegates to the Asean Regional Conference on Youth at Risk of HIV Infection hope solutions will be reached that will reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.

Speaking at the conference on Wednesday in Vientiane , Deputy Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union, Mr Vanna Douangphachanh, said that every country in the world was concerned about the welfare of its youth because they were a nation’s future.

“In this new era, which encourages greater integration of economies, there is more movement of people and exchange of attitudes and values. Some of these have negative impacts such as a loss of traditional social values, the spread of disease and drug abuse,” Mr Vanna said.

He said the Lao government regarded young people as the inheritors of the nation and tried to instruct and advise them to be nationalistic, to work together for mutual benefit and to appreciate traditional Lao values.

According to a report from the Asia Commission in 2008, almost half of all new HIV infections worldwide occur among people in the 15 to 24 age group. The youth union raised this issue with the other delegates, representatives of Youth at Risk of HIV, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to seek policies and practices to protect young people.

The Asean regional conference is seen as a significant way to strengthen relationships and bring together different ideas and points of view.

During the meeting, representatives from Cambodia , Malaysia , the Philippines , Thailand , Vietnam and Laos reported on the impact of HIV/AIDS on young people in their country.

“I hope that during the two-day conference all delegates from Asean countries will share information and experiences to find the best solution to achieve the objectives,” Mr Vanna said.

Asean cooperation on HIV/AIDS started in 1992 when Asean leaders attending the 4th Asean Summit called for the establishment of a regional taskforce on AIDS as well as the preparation of a regional work programme.

UNAIDS and the Commonwealth Secretariat supported the Asean Regional Conference on Youth at Risk of HIV Infection. –Vientiane Times/ANN