WHO and UNAIDS launch new standards to improve adolescent care
GENEVA, 6 October 2015 - New Global Standards for quality health-care services for adolescents developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS aim to help countries improve the quality of adolescent health care.
Existing health services often fail the world's adolescents (10-19-year-olds). Many adolescents who
suffer from mental health disorders, substance use, poor nutrition, intentional injuries and chronic
illness do not have access to critical prevention and care services. Meanwhile, many behaviours
that have a lifelong impact on health begin in adolescence.
“These standards provide simple yet powerful steps that countries – both rich and poor – can
immediately take to improve the health and wellbeing of their adolescents, reflecting the
stronger focus on adolescents in the new Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and
Adolescents' Health that was launched in New York in September,” says Dr Anthony
Costello, Director of Maternal, Children's and Adolescents' Health at WHO.
Adolescents form a unique group, rapidly developing both physically and emotionally but are often
dependent on their parents or guardians. WHO and UNAIDS Global Standards for quality
health-care services for adolescents recommend making services more “adolescent friendly”,
providing free or low-cost consultations, and making medically accurate age-appropriate
health information available. They also highlight the need for adolescents to be
able to access services without necessarily having to make an appointment or
requiring parental consent, safe in the knowledge that any consultation
remains confidential, and certain that they will not experience discrimination.
“If we want to keep adolescents healthy, we have to treat them with respect,” says Dr Costello.
“Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to certain health issues. The top three causes of death
among adolescents are road traffic injuries, AIDS-related illnesses and suicide.
“AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa and the second primary cause of
death among adolescents globally,” says Dr Mariângela Simão, Director of Rights,
Gender, Prevention and Community Mobilization at UNAIDS. “All adolescents, including key
populations, have a right to the information and services that will empower them to
protect themselves from HIV.”
Not only is adolescence a period of life when people are particularly vulnerable to certain health
issues, it is also a time when critical behaviours are shaped that will affect health in the
“So many behaviours – healthy or unhealthy – that impact the rest of our lives begin in adolescence,”
adds Dr Costello. “The health sector cannot stand there and tell people they are sick because of
the ways they use tobacco and alcohol, and their attitudes to diet and exercise, if it does
not do a better job of helping people develop healthy habits as adolescents.”
Training health workers is critical.
Dr Valentina Baltag, adolescent health expert at WHO, says: “There are countries where every fifth
citizen is an adolescent. Yet most students in medical and nursing schools graduate with no
understanding of the specific needs of adolescents in accessing healthcare. This is unacceptable.”
The Global Standards for quality health-care services for adolescents call for an inclusive package
of information, counselling, diagnostic, treatment and care services that go beyond the traditional
focus on sexual and reproductive health.
Adolescents should be meaningfully involved in planning, monitoring and providing feedback on health
services and in decisions regarding their own care.
More than 25 low- and middle-income countries have already adopted national standards for improving
adolescent health services.
The global standards from WHO and UNAIDS are built on research from these countries, as well as
feedback from health providers and more than 1000 adolescents worldwide. They are accompanied by
an implementation and evaluation guide that outlines concrete steps that countries can take
to improve health care for adolescents.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its
shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS
unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women,
ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners
towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with
us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Download the printable version (PDF)
tel. +41 22 791 2570
For more HIV and AIDS News visit...
Positively Positive - Living with HIV/AIDS: