Adolescents are the focus of many interventions that aim to prevent HIV transmission. In order for these interventions to be effective, it is essential to understand adolescents' sexual behaviour. Using data collected in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in 1997, the study analysed risk exposure and HIV prevalence among 426 men and 510 women aged 15–24. Although risky behaviours seem to be more prevalent among young men, their HIV prevalence remains under 1%. In contrast, HIV prevalence is high among young women (7·5%), even those who report having had few sexual partners. Mixing patterns among sexual partners, and especially the age difference between men and women, do not seem to be sufficient to explain the large male–female discrepancy in HIV prevalence that is evident in these data. The results are therefore probably due to a greater susceptibility to infection of young women than men. This study highlights the necessity of reinforcing prevention campaigns among youth and fighting the obstacles that continue to impede the use of condoms in this population.
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