Costa Rica’s teens know little about HIV risks

February 20, 2009

A new United Nations study shows that teenagers in Costa Rica´s two port cities know little about the risks of AIDS and HIV, even as they engage in unsafe sex.

The majority of teens ages 13 through 18 in the Caribbean port town of Limón and the Central Pacific port town of Puntarenas do not know how to put on a condom and do not know how HIV is transmitted.

“Levels of awareness are extremely low in Limón, and even lower in Puntarenas,” the report concluded. “The situation in Puntarenas is dire.”

Perhaps most worrisome, 14 percent of teens in Puntarenas and 6 percent in Limón said they have had sexual relations against their will in the past six months.

“That´s rape. There is no other way to describe it,” said Marco Fournier, who worked on the study.

Nearly 62 percent in Puntarenas and 57 percent in Limón did not know how HIV is transmitted. Some 83 percent in Puntarenas and 72 percent in Limón did not know how to put on a condom.

The study, which used a 400-person sample in each city, is part of a project by the United Nations Children´s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund and the Culture and Youth Ministry to promote healthy sexual practices.

The United Nations has donated a total of $156,630 for the project, whose total cost is $425,000. The project´s coordinators are looking for more funding.

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